Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Water issues yield $9K EPD fine for county

2013-12-12

By Pat Cooper

The summer's foul water event that had county residents reaching for bottles instead of taps has netted the water system a $9,000 fine from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division,
This past May a widespread taste and odor problem lasted several weeks and seemed to be only the beginning of a series of problems which ultimately led to the demotion of Fayette County Water System manager Tony Parrott. Initially, the problems were attributed to an inversion event in Lake Peachtree by water system staff. Later, both EPD specialists and the private consultant thought the inversion diagnosis was incorrect.
Ultimately, on May 29, the county’s water engineer consultant, Stuart Jeffcoat of CH2MHill, received results back from a comprehensive set of water tests. The tests revealed that the taste and odor concerns resulted from high readings of geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB) in Starr’s Mill Pond and geosmin in the raw water reservoir at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant. The raw water reservoir was fed by the Starr’s Mill Pond.
Both geosmin and MIB are chemicals released by blue-green algae and are two of the most widely known causes of taste and odor in water systems. Neither chemical posed a health hazard.
At the onset of the taste and odor problem, the Water System stopped pumping from Lake Peachtree and Starr’s Mill Pond.
Since the real cause of the problem was an algae bloom in Starr’s Mill Pond with the water filling the raw water reservoir, the taste and odor problems continued for a second week.
Staff from EPD told the county administration the water flowing from the Crosstown Plant was of the same quality as the prior week. The EPD staff also assisted the Water System with making the necessary corrections at the water treatment plant on May 16, with further assistance from Jeffcoat on May 17. There was an immediate improvement in the water quality.
On the heels of that, and several other problems, a Department of Natural Resources engineer’s evaluation of the water system blasted the county on approximately 10 violations and put the water system in the ‘concerned performance’ category.
According to the report, water plant operations were directed by numerous manages 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. The report noted that a surface water source must record each day the minimum residual disinfectant concentration entering the distribution systems based on a continuous monitoring and recording of the disinfectant residual and the lowest value must be recorded each day; in the event of a failure in the continuous monitoring equipment, grab sampling every four hours may be conducted in lieu of continuous monitoring but for no more than five working days following the failure of the equipment. At the time of the survey, the system couldn’t produce those daily records. He also charged the system failed to calibrate the online chlorine analyzers in compliance with EPA requirements.
Other complaints included the system didnt use the correct nitrogen gas purge for analysis of the daily concentration of chlorite entering the distribution system; not having records of any written reports, summaries or communications relating to the sanitary surveys of the system for the past 10 years; and violating the section that requires the system to “ensure that the drinking water should not contain any contaminant which will adversely affect the odor or appearance of th drinking water and consequently may cause a substantial number of the persons served by the public water system to discontinue its use or which may adversely affect the public welfare.
According to county administrator Steve Rapson, the county is already nearly 50 percent done addressing the problems that were indicated in the report. additionally, the 10 violations originally stated had been whittled down to four.
The $9,000 fine handed down last week also gives the county a year to make corrections to the problems the EPD listed and Rapson said he’s sure the county will have corrected the problems in that time with the help of the county’s newly hired water engineer of record, CH2M Hill.
Parrott, who was initially suspended without pay after the DNR report came in, was ultimately demoted to Class I Plant Operator.
In November, the commission hired new water system director Lee Pope to take Parrott’s position. Pope has over 11 years of management experience in the Water and Wastewater Industry, coming from the Rockdale Water Resources, where he served as Special Projects and Compliance Technical Service Manager for over four years.
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.
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.

 

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