BAMBERG/BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — A couple in a Bamberg County, South Carolina town are looking for alternatives after finding out their water tested high for levels of lead and other contaminants. Their journey to safe water is moving less from the dependence of city water to new technology. One that could soon be available to everyone in the city but it’s not an easy one.
Every few weeks, it starts as a trip, to Blackville, South Carolina to a spring that legend has it has healing properties.
“I’ve known about it since I’ve been a little boy,” Eugene Smith told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Smith, as well as Paula Brown, have lived in the area for a number of years. The pair started the conversation on water quality in one Bamberg County, South Carolina town after their water tested high for lead. Now two to three times a month, it’s almost like a ritual, the pair takes a trip to a natural spring that they say came from a higher being. “The first time I enjoyed coming up here I really don’t like to come up here. It just doesn’t seem right that we have to haul water and we are paying for water and we have to haul water,” Paula Brown said.
The road traveled is a difficult one with Smith having issues with his leg following health problems and Smith having arthritis. “I know the water is good for me but I just like putting on the gloves, that will help me for my hands to get real cold,” she said. But the journey it’s one that gives them a peace of mind. Prior to coming to the spring, the pair of citizen scientists have been collecting water samples for years. Turning their living room into a makeshift lab where jars of discolored water are dated for future examination. “Since 2011 this thing has been growing in there,” Smith said while showing Shawn a jar of water with a date on it.
But now the journey to less dependence of the City’s water has turned a bit futuristic with solar panels that pull water out of the air. “If the water is not doing what it’s supposed to be doing, they will call us and let us know and call us,” Smith said.
Water from Source Hydropanels from Zero Mass Water are an off-grid technology which creates drinking water using sunlight and air. SOURCE uses solar energy to raise the dewpoint inside the Hydropanels, driving passive condensation which results in high-quality drinking water— similar to distilled. “I think we get over 100 – 120 bottles of water a day from the panels,” Smith added.
Since launching in 2015, the company has installed its panels in 30 different countries. The product is available online but Zero Mass Water also works with developers, local governments, and nonprofits to deliver water sources to at-risk communities. Now local organizations are hoping to get the system in areas in the CSRA.
“It feels good because Paula has been fighting for the people in this town for over 11 years,” Smith recalls. “Now when they came and gave us a source for water, and some can be stored on schools, businesses, and houses. Clean drinking water for everyone,” he added.
The system is now giving Eugene and Paula options. “It’s amazing to have this and we are thankful for having this,” Brown said.