New System Puts City of Gastonia on Leading Edge of Water Treatment Technology

Imagine using millions of tiny straw-like membranes to filter impurities from lake water, converting it into clean, fresh drinking water without using heat or chemicals. That’s what’s happening right now at the newly renovated Two Rivers Utilities Water Treatment Plant in Gastonia.

Large white concrete dome
Clear well at Gastonia’s renovated water plant

The City just completed a total renovation of its 97-year-old water treatment plant that included installing this advanced technology. City leaders first started talking about the upgrade project in the early 2000s, with detailed planning starting in 2010. Two Rivers Utilities broke ground on the four-million-gallon clearwell in 2015 and the project wrapped up this year.

“The City’s first water treatment plant opened in 1922. It used sand filtration and chlorine, and treated one million gallons of water a day,” said Ed Cross, Division Manager, Two Rivers Utilities. “Over the decades, demand for water grew faster than our population, in part because of our local textile mills. Today, Gastonia’s plant can treat more than 27 million gallons of water each day.”

Membrane filtration is a complex and microscopic process that really is similar to millions of tiny straws straining out impurities from lake water. Bacteria and similar organisms can’t get through the membrane because the openings are so small. Many industries, from health care to aerospace, already use membrane filtration to purify liquids and fuels, but this is the first municipal water treatment facility in the state to use this high-tech membrane-filtration system as its primary purification method.

Large water tanks and pipes
Membrane filtration equipment

“The City of Gastonia has 97 years of experience providing safe drinking water for our customers’ growing needs,” said Cross. “The plant upgrades mean we will continue that tradition, and we’re excited that our high-tech treatment method will likely be a model for other water plants in our region.”

The $65 million modernization also made the Gastonia plant more efficient – using less energy and wasting less water. The investment was totally fee-funded, not tax-funded, including a no-interest loan from the state that saved Two Rivers Utilities customers $18 million.

The Two Rivers Utilities plant treats more than five billion gallons of water each year from Mountain Island Lake. That water goes to 100,000 residential and business customers in Gastonia, Cramerton, Lowell, McAdenville, Ranlo, and Clover, South Carolina.

The facility will host a dedication event on Oct. 11 to thank its partners and recognize the innovation and efforts required to fund the project and to secure approval from the state to use the membrane filtration system and modernize the entire water plant.