Fayette approves $338,000 review of water system

Probe expected to recommend capital improvements at treatment plants

The Fayette County Commission has approved a $338,000 contract to get recommendations on how to improve the county water system and in particular its water treatment plants in light of a scathing environmental review conducted in June.

The contract with CH2M Hill includes a 90-day stem-to-stern review of the county’s two water treatment plants in an effort to correct the 10 drinking water rule violations and additional deficiencies from a June review conducted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. EPD’s review followed a period of several weeks in which foul tasting and smelling water was persistent in the water system.

The review is expected to lead to a list of capital improvements necessary at both of the county’s water treatment plants. CH2M Hill will also be conducting an operational review to optimize how the plants are operated.

It took CH2M Hill coming on board to discover the problem was not localized at Lake Peachtree as first suggested by the water system director, but instead was due largely to operational problems at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant in Peachtree City.

Weeks later, under questioning from EPD, then-water system director Tony Parrott admitted that he guessed at the cause of the smelly, bad-tasting water.

Parrott was first given a two-week suspension without pay and was later demoted to water treatment plant operator as a result of the foul water episode, which crippled a number of local businesses including restaurants who took to serving bottled water and cooking with water from other sources due to the bad smell and taste flowing from the tap water.

In light of the foul water issue, the county paid to have its entire water system staff retrained for their specific jobs in an effort to prevent operational problems in the future.

County Manager Steve Rapson, in a memo to the county commission, said CH2M Hill will “fast-track operational enhancements and provide the water system the foundational elements to implement best practices across the organization.”

Money for the contract is coming from a revenue bond approved by the commission last year to pay for a magnetic ion exchange system to remove organic carbon material from raw water. That project has been put on hold pending the evaluation of new capital improvements for both water treatment plants.

Specifically, CH2M Hill is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the filters at each water treatment plant along with specific reviews of other plant equipment cited as being problematic in the EPD report.

Beyond that review, CH2M Hill will also conduct a separate assessment of both the South Fayette and Crosstown water treatment plants “to evaluate the existing infrastructure and overall operation of the plants” including the application of chemicals, the status of mechanical equipment and the overall operation of plant processes.

The firm also is charged with developing new standard operating procedures for both water treatment plants and evaluating the water system’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system which provides live monitoring and remote control features.

CH2M Hill also will help the county communicate progress updates to EPD officials and prepare a capital improvement plan within 90 days.

The EPD review from June stung the county with 10 water quality rule violations and a laundry list of “deficiencies” in both broken and non-working equipment as well as operational problems that were cited.

The shape of the water system was so bad in that review that EPD recommended Parrott and four other water system employees be investigated for fraud and/or incompetence in their jobs. That investigation would be undertaken by a separate state agency.

County Manager Rapson later sized up the water system problems as being “systemic failures.”

The county recently hired Steven “Lee” Pope as its new water system director. Pope most recently was the special projects and compliance technical service manager for the water system in Rockdale County.

The Fayette County Water System serves all of unincorporated Fayette County, Peachtree City, Tyrone, Brooks and Woolsey. The city of Fayetteville has its own water system.

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