State blasts Fayette Water System

Water System Director Tony Parrott (third from right) helps Fayette Commission Chairman Steve Brown and other county commissioners cut the ribbon during June ceremonies at the official opening of Lake McIntosh in Peachtree City. Photo/Ben Nelms.

EPD urges probe to determine if director, 4 employees were ‘fraudulent’ or ‘incompetent’

Main PTC Crosstown water treatment plant flunks inspection with score of 69

Now, something more than just the water smells.

The Fayette County Water System has been ticketed for 10 violations of Georgia’s safe drinking water rules, ranging from faulty monitoring of filters and water disinfectants at water treatment plants to a lack of appropriately-certified personnel running the two treatment plants and plant operations being conducted by uncertified, unsupervised personnel.

Along with the 10 rule violations, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division published a list of 147 deficiencies in the water system that need to be addressed, including 61 problems at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant alone. Of those 61 violations at the Crosstown plant, 31 dealt with equipment that needed to be repaired, modified or installed.

EPD has determined the situation is so dire that it is recommending a probe of five water system employees to determine if they “practiced fraud or deception,” or perhaps instead were “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.” That investigation would be undertaken by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and also the State Board of Examiners for Certification of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators and Laboratory Analysts.

EPD says the probe should target five water system employees: System Director Tony Parrott, Assistant Water Director Russell Ray, Water Plant Manager Bill McKinley, and water plant maintenance staffers Derek Broce and Darrell Hallford.

The violations and deficiencies were published in a report of the EPD’s sanitary survey review of the entire water system, which was conducted in June on the heels of an extended problem with taste and odor problems with the water that began in May and lasted for several weeks. The report is dated July 25.

According to the report, the source of the taste and odor problems which began in May and took weeks to subside “was determined to originate at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant.”

The EPD report noted that at the Crosstown plant, several of the filters’ media had separated from the wall and had “excessive mud-ball formation.”

“This is a sign of ineffective backwashing and poor maintenance,” according to EPD’s report. Because of this, EPD is requiring the water system to conduct “a complete filter evaluation on all of the filters by a licensed professional engineer.”

Four of the plant’s filters had leaking valves and another filter had “been out of service for six months,” according to the report.

The largest-reaching rule violation cited by EPD alleges that the water system failed to “ensure that the drinking water should not contain any contaminant which will adversely affect the odor or appearance of the drinking water and consequently may cause a substantial number of the persons served by the public water system to discontinue its use or which may adversely affect the public welfare.”

Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown said he is concerned about the EPD allegations against water system employees and the public’s ability to have confidence in the county’s drinking water.

“I’m concerned and we’re going to talk about it when [County Administrator Steve] Rapson gets back to town,” Brown said Tuesday morning. “... We’re going to address it and there will be a very thorough discussion about what’s going on.”

Brown agreed the EPD report had a lot of issues and there is also information from other sources questioning the water system as well.

One big question is how all the necessary repairs, upgrades and new equipment will be funded.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, there’s no doubt about that,” Brown said, adding that there is $9 million set aside for a magnetic ion exchange system to meet new federal guidelines that may perhaps come in handy for the other repairs and upgrades outlined in the EPD report.

The county already has a request for proposals out to select a consulting engineering firm to provide guidance and specialized assistance on matters involving the water system. For years and years, that engineering work has been handled by Mallet Consulting.

When the smelly and bad-tasting water issues arose in May and lingered for weeks, the county entered an emergency contract for engineering consulting services with CH2M Hill. That company is the former employer of current County Administrator Rapson.

Rapson is out of town and unavailable for comment. Water System Director Tony Parrott did not return a call from The Citizen Tuesday morning seeking comment on the EPD’s report.

Among the rule violations listed by the EPD include:

• Failure to provide daily continuous disinfectant residual readings for the last three years;

• Failure to employ a Class I Water Operator to be the official in charge of day to day operations of the Crosstown and South Fayette water plants;

• Failure to record the results of individual filter monitoring every 15 minutes; the turbidimeters at the Crosstown plant were not calibrated between Feb. and Oct. 2012 though they are required to be conducted quarterly;

• Failure of the continuous turbidity monitoring equipment, specifically at filter no. 5 at the Crosstown plant which was out for more than five days “and the water plant personnel were unaware this situation existed until it was brought to their attention. The monthly operating report did not indicate a problem with any of the filters,” which is also a reporting violation; and

• Failure to properly conduct analysis of the daily concentration of chlorite due to the improper use of a particular gas used in the process.

Other rule violations were as mundane as failure to have a business plan for the water system and a failure to keep copies of “any written reports, summaries or communications relating to sanitary surveys of the system conducted by the system itself, by a private consultant, or by any local, state or federal agency.” The sanitary survey documents are required to be kept for at least 10 years, according to EPD.

Some of the deficiencies at Crosstown WTP were related to disposal of empty chemical containers and appropriate labeling of chemical packages along with labeling certain equipment. The water system must also establish a training program to “bring all operators up to date with operations of he plant, current regulations and safety procedures.”

Although deficiencies were also identified at the South Fayette Water Treatment Plant, they were not as extensive or intensive as the list for the Crosstown WTP. At the South Fayette WTP, deficiencies included updating and recording of all maintenance activities, labeling all chemical bulk storage and day tanks, evaluating media depth in filters and replenishing to design specifications and removal of chemicals, cleaning equipment and supplies from the electrical room.

Consequently, the South Fayette WTP scored a 76.6 percent on the sanitary survey, giving it a rating of “satisfactory performance” while the Crosstown plant scored a 69.4 percent, earning a rating of “concerned performance.”

The water system has 45 days from the date of the report to respond to EPD with measures that will be taken to correct the deficiencies.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Munford - 45 days are up

Yesterday was the cutoff date for the county to respond to EPD report dated July 25th. Can you get a hold of the county response and publish this please.

Falcon66
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Rapson

The County is in a mess....lets see Rapson is knocking down about 200k with his benefits, brings his secretary from Union City over and gives her a raise after a few months to 70k.....whoa nelly! Then demoting and firing good long time county employees...Reign em in!

moelarrycurly
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WXIA TV is on this

Tonight's news. Steve Brown announces when Rapson gets back heads are gonna roll.

Husband and Fat...
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Just like last time?

Full of hot air.

When the going gets rough, the admin goes on vacation. Only been on the job 7 months. Gee Wiz.

We got 30k people who have no trust with the water dept.

Got my bill today too. I will send them a nice note with this check.

swilli1055
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Funny

how initially it was blamed on a algae bloom in late April. No one has ever addressed where that came from.

fernkids2
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Poor performers

I think most Fayette Citizens are tired of the same old politics and excuses. The persons responsible need to step up, take responsibility and make the difficult changes. All the blaming and dragging of feet is unhealthy for the citizens. And you can keep saying there is no health risk, but as so much has been surfacing, it is quite clear that you're not to be trusted.

When I read information with scores in the 60's and 70's I can not help but think you are failing the county and it's citizens. ...the South Fayette WTP scored a 76.6 percent on the sanitary survey, giving it a rating of “satisfactory performance” while the Crosstown plant scored a 69.4 percent, earning a rating of “concerned performance.”

Shame on all those involved!

naturegrl
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Spinning wheel

Agree with husband and Fat. And the wheel just keeps on spinning and spinning and where it stops someone should know. Maybe now Mr. Brown will quit blaming everything that ever goes wrong on prior commissioners. Now he has got to man up and do his job. We'll see.

MajorMike
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naturegrl - you ignore the obvious

Commission Chairman Steve Brown does not have to lay the blame at anyone's feet, the upcoming investigations by the State and EPD will tell the story. We already know that infrastructure budgets were shorted by the Jack Smith "regime" so that they could claim budget surpluses in the face of the "road to nowhere" fiasco, we (Fayette County) are still trying to recover from all of the "deferred" road maintenance that group saddled us with.

More to the point, I haven't heard of Steve Brown blaming anyone with the water problem, all I have heard and read is that the chairman wants to correct the problems where ever they lie.

I still question why there was not a State investigation over the "road to nowhere", "the empty school", and Chairman Jack Smith's board of directors membership on the board of a particular bank. This time there will be a State investigation. Let's see how it shakes out, shall we?

naturegrl
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Steve Brown

Last time I checked Mr. Brown has been in office for three years.

johenry
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Now that's just plain stupid naturegrl

Do you really think Steve Brown caused that debacle of a water utility in the few months he's been chairman??? Get a life!!

If you'd go to a meeting every now and then like some of us do you'd know Brown voted again the morons Frady, Hearn and Horgan on just about everything!!!

Husband and Fat...
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Thanks for the Transparency

Wait 20 days to share this information to the paper knowing the water department is not being run properly and allow the county administrator to conveniently leave town. Call him on his county phone and let him drive his county vehicle back here to take care of business.

All water managers and the board should be required to turn in their resignation. Allow CH2M Hill take over for 6 months until a new board and manager can be hired.

Why was tonights regular meeting cancelled?

Never noticed before, but Mr. Barlow please purchase a pair of shoes. The sneakers just don't cut it.

fayettehuntman
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Husband...

Somebody needs to ask Brown and Rapson why Mckinley was fired now. Why was he allowed to mismanage the two water plants for 4 years when the employees were begging somebody to get rid of him because he did not have a clue what he was doing and made mistake after mistake that the employees had to constantly correct? Why did Parrot think it was ok to hire a 71 year old man who had never worked in a water plant, much less managed one, who was to replace 2 (yes two!) managers who both had class I Water Operator certifications, but were fired by Parrot? Was there some personal motives in firing 2 Managers who knew what they were doing and replacing them with a man who did not know what he was doing?

Were the previous managers not toeing the line that Parrot wanted and he replaced them with a "yes" man that he was friends with?

Something stinks about that whole situation! I cannot think of any reasonable reason why that was done and somebody needs to be asking some serious questions! Is our Human Resources Department also guilty of a coverup it that situation?
In most County Governments the Human Resources personal is heavily involved in the hiring and firing process, so how did they justify firing 2 qualified managers and replacing them with an unqualified one?

The more questions I ask, the more questions are raised! I tried to get some answers out of a current employee, but he is a bit upset with me because he is afraid he will be identified and he does not want to be fired for telling too much about the long standing problems at the plants. He did give me the telephone number of a retired employee who supposedly is not afraid to talk and knows "everything" that has gone on. If I get some more answers from him, I will post them here!
An employee at one of the plants (who is afraid to talk to me anymore because he is afraid that Tony will fire him for some of the things he has told me and others)said a few weeks ago that most of the employees at the plants were "furious" that no one was interested in their side of the water mess and that the management was only interested in smoothing over any employee complaints with fear and intimidation. For instance Parrot told one employee that he was on "thin ice" because the employee complained about McKinley being incompetent.
Sounds like if the commissioners really wanted to find out what is going on, they need to talk to some of the employees (current AND former) who have first hand information about what has been going on at the plants for the last 4 years. And NOT with parrot standing beside them when they talk, MR> BARLOW!!!

If there are 2 more idiots on the board who think like Barlow, the future of the water plants in Fayette County is doomed! Brow needs 2 more commissioners to vote with him to do anything about Parrot and there are only 5 total votes and we can plainly see Parrot has Barlow in his back pocket!

Interesting and scarey times in our fair County!!!

Husband and Fat...
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Huntsman

I don't know any of the players involved. I do know that if they were under my direction, they would not be employed by me. At this point, no explaination should be needed. The licks would be changed and they can claim their personal affects latter. We are talking about a total loss of confidence.

When I started my career, my dad always reminded me to hire people that were smarter than me and had experience playing team sports. He explained that subordinates smarter than me would challenge me to listen to different ideas and learn. People who played team sports understand teamwork and dedication. Knock on wood, it's worked for me.

Barlow has always been a yes man. What idiot asks questions about current leadership when the leader is standing by? Nothing new from the AV guy. Ask Ognio if he would put up with this BS if his electrical firm had a punch list like that? What I don't particularly like is not hearing from any of these "individual" commissioners. Brown must have put a muzzle on them because they're afraid to speak.

We all know Mr. Brown will state that he inherited this mess, and he did. But who cares at this point. Commission needs to show some transparency and act. If Rapson ain't at CH2M Hill cutting a deal, he needs to get his butt back and show some leadership. Heck, he's only been on the job 7 months, what vacation time has he accrued?

johenry
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What's his deal??

I thought David Barlow was one of the good guys. What's happening???

LongTimer
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Looks like Stevie boy

just put the first nail in his political coffin. Never again Stevie boy!