Water problems have a history

[Editor’s note: This letter was addressed to the Fayette County Commission.]

I suppose you are not so interested in hearing more from me, but the recent issues with the bad taste in county water needs more information/history.

It should not be a surprise to any of you that I am, and have been, very involved in water quality issues in the south metropolitan area for a very long time. Once I retired in 1994, I was free to make public comments openly and immediately set about doing so.

At that time, Line Creek was a problem stream, particularly downstream from Peachtree City. I was a guide for a group of biological experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to look for endangered mussels in late 1995.

During that search, we Service biologists encountered and reported violations (related to Lake McIntosh) of the Clean Water Act by the Fayette County Water Department to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That issue was settled through repair and payment of a small fine by the county.

My follow-up sampling for stream critters found a troubling depression of populations, including a total absence of native mussels.

Sometime in 1996, I asked for a meeting with water department staff and met with Tony Parrott and a representative from Mallet & Associates at the Dividend Water Treatment facility.

The main point I want to bring to your attention was an exchange I had with Tony where I asked about county sampling of the raw water from Line Creek since there was obviously something wrong.

His response was, to the best of my memory: “Why would we do that? Fayette County meets the minimum requirements set by EPA for treated water so there is no need to look at what comes in to our system.”

Gentlemen, it took a while for that to sink in. I had evidence of a problem and they were not interested enough in protecting their customers to find out what was going on!

But that is not all. Just a few years later, Hartsfield Airport had a spill of deicing fluid — I’m sure some of you will remember the incident. The chemical in that fluid caused a sweet taste in the drinking water in Fayette County because small quantities had been picked up from the Flint River for treatment.

At a public meeting in Peachtree City to hear about that incident, I urged the responsible parties (Airport and Ga. EPD) to test the river to determine what impacts had taken place.

I also urged Greg Dunn (then Fayette County Commission Chairman) to set up a monitoring device upstream from the Flint River intake to test continuously for loads of contaminants and have an automatic shutdown of the intake to Lake Horton so no more bad-tasting water would get into the system.

I was assured that they would do so or at least make sure it never happened again.

So here we are, once again, receiving promises that our water system would be made safer by testing water intakes. It didn’t happen all those years ago, after multiple problems, so why would or should we believe it will happen now?

One final point, one of you attended some of my Line Creek Association meetings where these exact issues were described and discussed. So please don’t come across as surprised that we continue to hear hollow promises from county staff.

Dennis Chase
Fayetteville, Ga.

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Mr. Chase

Thank you for the history lesson. It appears that previous commissions and water department staff chose not to listen to warnings by only providing he bare minimum requirements.

Should the state EPD provide a thorough inspection of the water system, it appears that FC will discover many possible problems with expensive remediation.

Though we cannot blame the current commission for any of these problems, you are correct in stating that it should not be a surprise to some.

Many people today assume that we are going to be provided clean drinking water. But we are susceptible to upstream water sources as well as the sources in our immediate vicinity.