Fayette’s new water system director comes from Rockdale Co.

Fayette County has hired a new water system director, filling a vacancy created by the demotion of long-time director Tony Parrott following systemic failures that led to foul drinking water across the county for several weeks in late spring.

Steven “Lee” Pope will take the helm of the Fayette water department, which serves all of unincorporated Fayette County, Peachtree City, Tyrone, Brooks and Woolsey.

Pope was hired away from Rockdale County, where he served as special projects and compliance technical service manager for more than four years.

“We are extremely grateful to have had Mr. Pope joining the Fayette County team,” Rapson said. “Lee has exactly the type of operational and technical experience needed for our water system.”

He holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Class 1 Water Treatment Plant Operator license from the state.

Pope served as a water plant manager for seven years and has significant experience in managing capital improvement projects, infrastructure development, community relations and optimizing water treatment plan operations, Rapson said.

Prior to working in Rockdale County, Pope spent five years as a water treatment chief plant operator for Covington, Ga.

Pope comes to a water system working to repair numerous flaws pointed out in a critical inspection in June as state regulators cited the county with violating 10 safe drinking water regulations. The county has worked to turn around the crisis, retraining all its employees recently to make sure they were following correct and accepted water treatment procedures and safeguards, officials have said.

The county also made a big splash toward credibility by hiring the CH2M Hill consulting firm as its engineer of record with the water system. In that role, CH2M Hill is responsible for preparing a list of repairs and changes that are necessary to remedy all the violations and deficiencies uncovered by EPD during its June review.

It was CH2M Hill that was able to correct the foul-smelling and tasting water issue that plagued the system for weeks in late May into June. While Parrott later admitted that he guessed at the cause of the episode, CH2M Hill ultimately pegged the problem on operations at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant in Peachtree City.

CH2M Hill also had to respond to another water crisis several weeks later in which elevated manganese levels resulted in both the county’s water treatment plants being shut down for several days in the same week. The manganese problems were attributed to poor lab testing procedures and the use of an incorrect gate to withdraw water at both plants.

Although Parrott was initially docked pay and allowed to remain as water system director, he was later demoted to the position of water treatment plant operator with a significant cut in salary as a result of what Rapson called “systemic failures” with the water system.

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