Plant operators: ‘Water system broken’
Director admits he ‘guessed’ about odor; county says he has continued to visit plants despite 'incorrect' notes saying otherwise
Some employees of the Fayette County Water System told state regulators that broken equipment is not repaired in a timely manner, and several indicated that management has chalked it up to budgetary concerns, according to reports provided by Fayette County in response to The Citizen’s Open Records request.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which interviewed water system employees, also raised critical questions of Water System Director Tony Parrott, who admitted to investigators that he “guessed” at the cause of the the taste and odor problem that occurred in May and into June.
While Parrott suspected it was caused by raw water from Lake Peachtree, an investigation by EPD later determined that faulty operations at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant were to blame.
Parrott also admitted to the EPD that he had not personally set foot in either of the system’s two water treatment plants for the previous six months, according to the notes, however the county has said that portion of the notes was inaccurate. See http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/09-05-2013/county-says-parrott-has-be...
EPD officials have recommended a state-level investigation of five water system employees as to whether they “may have practiced fraud or deception,” or instead are “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.”
In addition to that probe, EPD cited the county with violating 10 state safe drinking water rules. County Administrator Steve Rapson said at least some of those violations would be challenged.
In his interview with EPD, Parrott told EPD investigators that there is an “ongoing list” of maintenance issues at the South Fayette water treatment plant, but a basin track that has been out for six months was not on the list in an effort to get the contractor to pump it out.
Parrott told EPD he was unaware why two chlorine-based chemicals were being fed at the same time at the Crosstown treatment plant, and that he was not aware that unlicensed maintenance workers were applying chemicals at wells and flushing lines.
Parrott also blamed former Water Plant Manager Bill McKinley for not getting maintenance done, though Parrott said he “tracked progress,” of maintenance work.
In the interview, Parrott admitted to not having a complete business plan, but when asked why it was incomplete replied “I don’t know.”
The above and following revelations were contained in notes of employee interviews conducted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The notes were taken by Fayette County Human Resources Director Lewis Patterson and released last week at the request of The Citizen.
Among the number of employees who questioned maintenance issues were:
• A senior plant operator from the south Fayette plant told EPD “there is no preventative maintenance or work orders” and that equipment stays out of service “a long time, like the flash mix motors at Crosstown.”
• A water plant maintenance worker told EPD that the Crosstown plant is dilapidated and that “getting supplies and tools is an issue. ... Seems like they don’t have money for stuff they need but money is spent on snow chains and snow shovels,” he said.
• One water operator/lab analyst noted that “getting simple supplies is very difficult,” and he suggested a need to change the supply process.
• A water plant operator said “a lot of things need attention, more maintenance,” and specifically cited basic maintenance.
• A water plant operator cited a need for a better turnaround on acquiring parts and “a better stock of spare parts.” That operator cited that the alum pump at the South Fayette plant has been “down for several years.”
• Another employee said he felt management was vindictive and chose to videotape the EPD interview due to a fear of retribution from the water system management.
Notes from the interviews were provided by county officials in response to an Open Records Request filed by The Citizen Aug. 26.
While the county’s internal personnel probe is complete, five water system employees including Water System Director Tony Parrott face a further state investigation on and four others as to whether they “may have practiced fraud or deception,” or might perhaps be “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.”
There is also a remote chance that the matter will be investigated by a Fayette County Grand Jury. The September term of the grand jury is slated to begin Sept. 11, and court officials are expected to appoint 23 grand jurors to serve the county for a six-month term.