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Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 12:07pm

Could Harbor Deepening Impact Drinking Water?

Deepening the Savannah harbor to accommodate larger ships is now the number one priority for officials in the coastal city.

Still, there is cause for concern coming from one city official... the one in charge of drinking water.

The deepening will send more saltwater up the Savannah River.

And since the city is getting more of its drinking water from the river, John Sawyer, who manages the water system in Savannah, has concerns about the project.

"As chlorides increase, so does corrosion," Sawyer says. "Then you've also got the possibilities of additional leeching of lead and copper."

Sawyer says, the salt will corrode lead and copper pipes, endangering safe drinking standards.

But Corp spokesman Billy Birdwell disputes that.

He says, the issue of Savannah's drinking water intake on the Savannah River has been addressed in his agency's massive draft environmental report.

"The Corp's draft report states that there will be insignificant impacts to the water quality from dredging," Birdwell says. "Any changes to the water supply from the river will remain well within the nation's stringent water quality standards."

Still, Birdwell says, the Corp will address the city's water concerns in a second draft report, due out this spring.