By Paula S. Osborn for The Island Connection
In 2017, given all the advances that have taken place in our country in travel, technology, and health care, it is hard to realize that many of our neighbors on Wadmalaw Island do not have well water that is suitable for drinking, cooking, or washing. When Seabrook Island resident, Shirley Salvo, Founder and President of the Sea Island Hunger Awareness Foundation, first learned of these conditions on Wadmalaw, she contacted fellow Seabrooker Bill Britton and asked him to head up an effort to address the situation. He formed the Sea Islands Water Wellness Mission in 2016, which is sponsored by the SIHAF, an organization that was established in 2015 to fund and support efforts to provide food and related services to our sea island neighbors in need.
Bill determined that the residents of Wadmalaw faced four major issues: failing old wells with rusty pipes, high mineral/sulphur content, salt water intrusion, and often the lack of a functioning septic system. Fortunately for Bill, two other Seabrook Island residents, Annie Smith- Jones and her husband Don Jones, contacted him in 2016 and volunteered their expertise when the water problems of island residents came to their attention. Annie and Don had moved here from Annapolis, MD, where they had founded their own company, Quality Environmental Solutions in 1992. Don is a hydrogeologist by training, and Annie, the company president, has an MA in social work and a BS in education. They have worked together on environmental remediation initiatives in this country and have done pro bono work around the world through Pure Earth, located in New York City. Environmental issues are a family concern for the Joneses, and two of their four children have specialized degrees and work with them.
Through contacts with local churches and schools, Bill Britton identifies the households on Wadmalaw that are most in need. Each family completes an application and interview to qualify for assistance. Annie and Don Jones then follow up with an onsite study in which they ask questions about the state of water accessibility and its condition. Next, they test the water for five properties: hardness, and PH, Iron, magnesium and sulfate levels. With these results in hand, they are able to recommend a course of action.
From March 2016 to date, Water Wellness Mission has installed 9 new wells and 10 water filtration systems for families that already had functioning wells. The team has plans to add another 11 filtration systems for families already identified once the project receives more funding. A fully installed well costs on average around $7000, but when a well is already functional, Water Wellness Mission can add a filtration system for about $1000 to remedy the water deficiencies. These two means of addressing water problems have enabled the team to serve that many more families. The expertise of Annie and Don Jones has allowed the Water Wellness Mission to match particular filters to individual system needs. In most cases, a chemical well filter (KDF85) has proven suitable, but in other instances a sediment filter is required to fix a sand problem.
Bill Britton and the Joneses follow up with each household to make sure that care and maintenance needs are met and to see if any additional support might be required. For these Wadmalaw families, access to clean, clear water has been life changing. They are able to cook without worrying about contamination or sulfurous odors, and they can wash their clothes without staining them. They have access now to clean water right at home, a life essential that so many of us take for granted.
The Sea Islands Water Wellness Mission will continue working to provide clean water for the residents of Wadmalaw as additional funds become available.
To support the important work of this non-profit organization, please go to fightislandhunger.org. Your gift will keep on giving each day in a nearby family’s life!