Hurricane Joaquin – a category five storm – caused massive devastation throughout the state of South Carolina in the beginning of October. Hardest hit was the city of Columbia, the state’s capital, just 90 miles north of Water Missions International’s headquarters in North Charleston. Although the hurricane did not make landfall on the east coast, its torrential rains and powerful winds caused catastrophic flooding, damaged roads, ruptured dams and displaced thousands of residents. Coined the “1,000-year flood” in South Carolina, the destructive force of the flood necessitated an immediate citywide boil water advisory for its residents when the city’s water supply became compromised. Faced with an overwhelming safe water shortage, the City of Columbia looked for help.
Andy Fairey, a board member at Water Missions International and COO for Charleston Water System, contacted Water Missions once the need for a response in Columbia was evident. Water Missions immediately began working to deploy two Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems, one of which was donated by Parker Hannifin. Five staff members from Water Missions’ headquarters traveled to Columbia just 24 hours after the receiving the request. They worked throughout the night to install the RO system, which uses water pressure to push water through a semi-permeable membrane filter to remove contaminants. Each system is capable of providing tens of thousands of gallons of safe water per day.
Water Missions worked in partnership with the City of Columbia and the Department of Environmental Control (DHEC) to treat drinking water for residents of Columbia. The team also received utility support from Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Spartanburg and Buford/Jasper to install 28 distribution tanks at 10 different locations around Columbia, providing safe drinking water to the people affected by the floods.
Many volunteers came out to support the efforts of Water Missions in this response. From people volunteering to drive critical mechanical parts from Wilmington, NC to Columbia, to donating moving trucks and collecting hundreds of household water containers, the state of South Carolina pulled together in incredible ways to help our brothers and sisters in need.
Another international non-profit, Operation Blessing, also joined in the effort. We often work together to serve those in developing countries, but it is rare that our efforts are needed stateside. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide our neighbors with clean, safe water in a time of distress. The support from volunteers, donors and partners in this effort has been tremendous, and we could not have provided relief without your generosity.