EPD fines Fayette $9,000 for foul water failures

A Fayette County Water System employee flushes a fire hydrant in the county's attempt to mitigate days of foul-smelling water in May 2013. File photo.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has issued a $9,000 fine on the Fayette County Water System as a result of the smelly water episode in May that lasted for several weeks, which resulted in a scathing report on problems with the county’s water treatment process.

The fine was part of a consent order entered between EPD and the county last week. Along with the fine, EPD is giving the county a year to fully implement a corrective action plan that is being prepared by the county’s engineering consulting firm, CH2M Hill.

The smelly and bad-tasting water began around May 9 and lingered for weeks. Tony Parrott, the water system director at the time, later admitted that he guessed at the cause of the smelly water, which was later identified to be operational problems at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant in Peachtree City.

Parrott was initially suspended without pay for his role in the problem, but he was later demoted to water treatment plant operator by County Manager Steve Rapson.

The consent order notes that surveys of the two water treatment plants conducted by EPD in June found “numerous deficiencies and violations at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant and the South Fayette Water Treatment Plant” totaling 29 at the Crosstown plant and 14 at the South Fayette plant. Those were on top of six deficiencies at water intake structures, two deficiencies at wells, five deficiencies at storage tanks and four about the distribution system itself.

The EPD order determined that the county violated state drinking water rules by:

• Allowing any contaminant that adversely affects the odor or appearance of the drinking water “and consequently may cause a substantial number of the persons served ... to discontinue its use or which may adversely affect the public welfare.”;

• Allowing water plant operations to be directed by managers who were not directly responsible for those job duties or failed to hold the appropriate license, in violation of state drinking water rules;

• Failing to have a Class I Water Operator in charge of the day to day operations of the water plants;

• Allowing uncertified maintenance personnel to prepare chemicals for water treatment and those employees also adjusted the dosages along with operating pumps and valves at the wells;

• Failing to continuously monitor the required daily disinfectant residual readings for a three-year period from 2010-2013, as the water system failed to calibrate the online chlorine analyzers and

• Failing to issue a boil water advisory after a pressure loss Aug. 6 at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant.

EPD was also critical of an issue in early August where higher than allowed manganese levels led to discolored water in the system.

EPD noted that the county has undertaken a list of 151 remediation tasks to address the clean water violations and deficiencies, 36 of which have already been finished.

SPQR
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keep in mind

the 9K fine is not being paid by the responsible parties. It is being paid by the victims (us) when they pay their water bill.

Husband and Fat...
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EPD - Water fine

I am okay with the fine and believe the county needs to just put this behind us.

I do however have a question regarding the actual completion of the remediation tasks. This article states that 36 of the 151 tasks have been addressed. That is 24%.

In an article dated 9/11, the county stated that 25% had been addressed, 72% would be complete within 3 months and 81% within 6 months.

Another article dated 9/18 stated that the county had completed 38%

Then on 10/16 the county stated that we were 55.3% complete and reiterated this again in the water committee meeting minutes dated 10/23. The meeting minutes from the Nov 13th meeting have not been posted because they cancelled the Nov 27th meeting due to the holiday.

I would like the county to list all 151 tasks and provide a checklist as to the actual completion date or projected completion for all 151 tasks so we can see the truth.

moelarrycurly
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That's might generous of you

to think $9,000 worth of water bill payments are ok to just hand over to a regulatory agency for negligence by management of our drinking water.

I suggest rethinking here. Concern seems to be a little backwards.

I am ok with the work being done now. It is being addressed. It will be time consuming. I actually saw a water system truck at one of our county water wells in PTC on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago. In 20 years, that never has happened before. I found that encouraging.

I am not ok with the causes and reasons for the fine and do not think we should just put this behind us. I expect the FCBOC and Mr. Rapson to continue to keep this issue front and center and in the public eye and to follow up on additional measures to keep our drinking water safe. I agree with a list of tasks and updates. I am sure the water department will share that with us.

I also want to see included additional steps of filing criminal charges against management and staff who allowed this to happen. Whether that be done by FCBOC thru the county attorney and D.A.'s office or by the EPD, I don't care. Secretary of State Brian Kemp should have enough to revoke licenses many times over.

What could have been poisoning a drinking water supply affecting thousands of people is about as serious a charge as I can think of. I want to see operator licenses stripped from individual(s) who still have them. I want these people to never be allowed near a drinking water supply again, much less be allowed to regulate the operation of one.

Husband and Fat...
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MLC - my logic

I am not happy with the fine, but I think $9k fine could / should have been much higher based on the fraud committed by the water dept. We don't need to fight this like Dekalb schools fought the construction management firm only to end with a pittance after years of fighting.

As for the 151 items, I want to see the real tally of completed and signed off items. The county claims don't jive with the EPD. Supplying unsubstantiated percentages is worthless. The water dept meeting minutes should provide this at every meeting until 100% sign off. I'm not holding my breath on this ever being published.

The water dept and the water committee should all be held accountable. Awarding the former engineers accomodations was absolutely wrong in light of the problems. They need to be held accountable too. There hasn't been any word on charges lately. I felt that the county manager may have tried to squash this, "for the good of the county"?

As I read more info about the new engineer of record contract an the supplemental contract to evaluate the system, I am less impressed. I want the county to share more information regarding the selection and understand why they chose to alter the bid process based on the addendums. I'm coming to the realization that the old good ole boys are being sacked only to use the new good ole boy network.