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Kimberly-Clark mill in Beech Island, S.C. receives global recognition for conserving hundreds of millions of gallons of water

BEECH ISLAND, S.C. (From WJBF) -- A Beech Island business is doing its part to conserve water. The Kimberly-Clark mill has recently received global recognition for its work to conserve water.

A conservationist tells me saving water in the Savannah River makes a difference for everyone in the CSRA.

You probably have lots of Kimberly-Clark products in your home right now. They make a ton of paper products, everything from Huggies diapers to Scott paper towels to Kleenex.

And they make a lot of right here in the CSRA at their mill in Beech Island.

"About 2,000 people come to work here every day," said mill manager John Pownall.

Making paper products requires a lot of water...water they originally pull from the Savannah River.

"Every day it takes about 14 million gallons to make our daily allotment of product," said environmental manager Matt Campanaro.

This is how it works:

"We take these bales of pulp as they're called...about 500 lbs each. And we put them into a big vat, which is somewhat like a blender. We add water to that to get it into a slurry, and we continue to dilute it till it's very, very dilute," Pownall said.

That water orients the fibers probably. Then they dilute it, pulling the water out of the product to make a roll of paper towels or toilet paper.

Some of that water is lost to evaporation, but they reuse about 40 percent of the leftover water of it to create future batches. They release the other 60 percent back into the river.

At the end of 2016, Kimberly-Clark received recognition for its water conservation efforts from the Pulp and Paper Institute.

"Since we were awarded the water efficiency recognition, I'm proud to say that year to date we've conserved over 900 million gallons of water," Campanaro said.

That's about 900 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water.

Conservationist Tonya Bonitatibus says all that extra water helps fight pollution in the river water, which is the water we ultimately end up drinking.

"It dilutes the waste," she said. "So the solution to pollution is dilution."

She says it's also important to conserve water as we face droughts.

Kimberly-Clark cleans its wastewater onsite.

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