Two weeks after Fayette County administrator Steve Rapson announced that six employees with upper echelon jobs were disciplined for problems with the county’s water system, the system’s director has been demoted and a search is on for his replacement.
Fayette County Water Director, Tony Parrott, has been demoted to Class I Plant Operator effective immediately. He will report to Bill Stevens, Crosstown Water Treatment Plant Operator Responsible in Charge who is responsible for running the day to day Water Treatment Plant. The position is one of 16 water plant operators; there are two plant operators working a rotating 12-hour shift who report to the WTP Plant ORC. These positions are responsible for participating in the operation of water treatment plant and have no supervisory oversight or responsibility.
Parrot had been hit with a two-week suspension without pay (making it a financial loss of $4,555.56) and placed on a 120-day probation. Additionally, as part of the disciplinary program, Parrott was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan which included creating and implementing a comprehensive communication improvement plan; preparing a comprehensive corrective action plan for all the Notices of Violation and noted deficiencies outlined in the Sanitary Assessment Survey; a customer service improvement plan; an evaluation and update of Standard Operating Procedures; and a comprehensive capital improvement plan. He was also required to retrain all water system personnel based upon their respective classifications, complete leadership and supervisory classes for all senior management, and improve board of commissioner and Environmental Protection Division relationships, including notifications protocols.
For the past few months, the county’s water department has been fielding problems in the community concerning broken pipes, the manganese levels in the drinking water, as well as a problem in early summer with both the odor and taste of the county’s drinking water. The Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Division blasted the water system on at least 10 violations the county will have to address.
According to the report, water plant operations were directed by numerous managers who were not responsible for the water plant operations or held an inappropriate license to meet the classification of the water plant as required.
Uncertified personnel were performing operational duties at the well treatment plant without the direct on-site supervision of a certified operator, according to the report by Environmental Specialist R. Wayne Jackson.
Dr. Stuart Jeffcoat of CH2M Hill, the water consultant the county hired to help deal with both the odor and taste problem in late May and the recent manganese problem faced by the county which caused a shut down of the water system’s treatment plants in south Fayette and on Crosstown Road seemed to echo Jackson’s list of deficiencies.
In addition to water quality problems, county commissioners complained that communication between the board and the water system - as well as with other local officials and the public- have been poor.
Earlier this month the Brooks town council announced that the Brooks water system’s 138 customers received notification from the Fayette County Water System- who is involved in an intergovernmental agreement to run that water system- it had received notice from the DNR indicating the town was in violation of water testing standards. Lead and copper sampling is required every three years. The county water system received a Notice of Violation for not collecting 10 lead and copper samples in July 2010. The Fayette County Water System started operating the Brooks Water System June 24, 2010.
The recent water problems have not posed a health hazard associated with the affected drinking water.
In his memo to Parrott regarding the improvements he wanted to see Rapson noted that “you must prove your resolve in doing everything you can to earn the trust of our residents again.”
Each step of the improvement program was given a start date, names of responsible personnel, target completion dates and relevant comments, all of which needed to be updated on a weekly basis.
This demotion was based upon “inadequate performance of responsibilities as the Water System Director and a reasonable expectation that he can perform successfully in the lower classified position. Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has been queried and advised of this demotion.”
Rapson said, on Monday, that he had a long meeting with Parrott on Friday after not seeing the conditions of the performance improvement plan being implemented.
“Tony agreed to this,” said Rapson, pointing out that Parrott had started with the county as a Class I plant operator.
“This demotion is contingent upon his successful completion of the required retraining program for this position” Rapson said.
Parrott will report to Crosstown Water Treatment Plant Operator Bill Stevens. Stevens himself had been swept up in the investigation, being reclassified from Assistant Water Plant Manager to the managerial position, but also received a two-day suspension without pay. Another result of the demotion will be a dramatic decrease in salary to the pay grade connected to the new position.
The county is currently in the process of selecting a third‐party Engineer of Record who will begin immediately to assess and evaluate the state of the Water System. Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority Director Steven Hogan was asked for his input into the selection of the new Engineer of Record.
Finalist interviews are expected to be held this Thursday and Friday with a goal of providing a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners for their consideration and approval at our September 26 meeting.
Until a new director is hired, the water system employees will be, in essence, reporting to Rapson.
Additionally, the county has developed a comprehensive response to the EPD’s Notice of Violations (NOV) and deficiencies and are finalizing them with EPD this week. Fayette Water System personnel have been working long hours to correct EPD deficiencies, correcting close to 25 percent to date.
“We need to earn the public confidence lost over these past few months,” said Rapson.