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$320K to fix stinky water

Sludge-filled lagoons, other problems found at PTC water treatment plant; officials initially blamed wrong lake

Fayette County’s smelly, foul-tasting water problem seems to be abating, and steps are being taken to address the issue that were recommended by a consultant and approved by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

In a report to the county last week, consultant Stuart B. Jeffcoat of the CH2M-Hill firm noted that stopping the raw water flow from the Starr’s Mill Pond “has significantly improved the odor in the raw water” and that no odor was detected from the raw water being pumped from Lake Peachtree.

Jeffcoat said water quality testing should confirm that the majority of the taste and odor problem came from the Starr’s Mill Pond. Initially when the first complaints began four weeks ago, water system officials had thought the trouble originated in Lake Peachtree.

A contributing factor to the problems is that the sludge lagoon and the backwash water lagoon at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant “are almost completely filled with solids, and the decant from these lagoons discharges almost directly at the raw water pump station in the reservoir,” Jeffcoat wrote.

Jeffcoat also wrote that he would be recommending other non-emergency measures be taken in the coming weeks and months at the plant to modify the water treatment process. Those recommendations are not critical to remediating the taste and odor issue but will help “prevent further water quality excursions,” Jeffcoat wrote.

The estimated cost of the remediation has reached nearly $320,000 including an estimated $260,000 to remove sludge from two lagoons at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant and apply it to a field owned by the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority.

The county has also partnered with WASA to build a connection so less than 3 million gallons of the smelly water can be discharged into the sewer system for treatment. That act will cost nearly $70,000. The county also has authorized spending $20,000 for an outside consulting firm to evaluate the taste and odor of the water and also assess the water system’s equipment, staff and procedures.

The water will have to be removed before the sludge matter can be addressed, according to county documents.

EPD and the county’s consulting firm, CH2M Hill, have said that a contributing factor to the odorous water may be the “continual, almost closed-loop recycling within the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant.”

EPD recommends that the plant find a way to treat and remove the filter backwash effluent and solids from the sedimentation basin.

EPD has approved the water system’s request to stop using the Starr’s Mill Pond reservoir for at least two weeks and a host of other measures including sampling of Lake Peachtree, Lake Horton, Starr’s Mill pond and the raw water reservoir for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), the organic compound geosmin and the organic chemical MIB (2-methylisoborneol).

The county also plans to move some of the raw water in the reservoir at the Crosstown plant back to Lake McIntosh, but the EPD is requiring that the lake “remain isolated from human contact” and the water must be sampled for any pollutants.

EPD is also urging the county to monitor its finished water for manganese and “continue to monitor taste and odor throughout the plant and distribution system to ensure that the pre-chlorine feed does not exacerbate lingering taste and odor incidents throughout the plant and distribution system.”

The water system last removed solids from the lagoons in question back in 1999 and it cost $200,000 then, County Administrator Steve Rapson told the Fayette County Commission last week.



I will be the first to admit that I read this article 5 times and it still is not clear to me. Perhaps it's just over my head.

It does appear that the sludge build up needed to be addressed some time ago if it is that close to being filled. Can anyone educate me. Is the sludge similar to silt washing into our storm systems? Is this any way related to stormwater?

Perhaps another article can be written so that it I explained so an elementary school kid can understand what's going on.

PTC Observer's picture

Use a filter

Don't want to have to be a H2O engineer to understand what their telling us now. I must be the only knucklehead.

PTC Observer's picture

Nope you're not a knucklehead, but it's kind of like investing. If you don't understand the product, don't buy it.

Water is a necessity for us to live, I don't think I would leave it to the knuckleheads of government to provide safe potable water.

Just an opinion.

Simple questions.

When did one have to have a PHD to read the Citizen. Seems like they just reported what the county wanted us to hear and didn't get any clarifications or ask why?

G35 Dude's picture

[quote]When did one have to have a PHD to read the Citizen. Seems like they just reported what the county wanted us to hear and didn't get any clarifications or ask why?[/quote]

I posted asking Steve Brown, The Citizen or someone to call in the State while this water thing as at it's height. The response seemed to be that the State wasn't needed. Then the State calls us and gets involved. Things start to clear up. I blast Mr Brown and the Citizen for lack of action. My posts are removed. Then Mr Brown comes out here and thanks the State for their help. And the Citizen prints an article explaining what happened that is not all that clear. Make of all of this what you will.

Read Wikipedia's definition of sludge. It will make you sick.

The cause and effect are disturbing to say the least. The county needs to respond to this and heads need to roll.

ptctaxpayer's picture

Ain't that hilarious....These clowns told us for weeks that the nasty "stinky" water was just a natural thing. Warm weather, blah, blah, blah...."Nothing to see here folks-- move along".

Now we know---- $320 large ones to fix it.

This (as the Titanic crew said) is the mere tip of the iceberg. Tony Parrott should be the first to resign and he should resign tomorrow. Maybe Mitch Seabaugh can get him one of them gubment jobs.

He already has one of those gumbament jobs. When one can't work in gubament anymore then their only means of subsistence will be that of welfare. The private sector can't survive with such incompetence in their ranks.

in the water authority


The real sludge problem lies in the Water Authority that obviously lacks the ability to reach out for help tomdiscern the truth of the problem, and makes up pathetic lies to cover. Really??? 1999 was the last time this sludge was cleaned out? Surely there should have been a reasonable programmed removal of this. Can we now expect a new "Sludge Water Tax?" I am continually amazed at the lack of professional management we have in critical services. I think the biggest part of the solution here is to remove the " SLUDGE" in the Water Authority.


mudcat's picture

more often than once every 14 years. Probably cost less as well. Since Brown and Parrot got the cause wrong, the lake wrong, the solution wrong, were they also wrong on "the water is safe to drink"? Were we drinking diluted sludge? I don't feel so good right now. Should I call my doctor or my lawyer.



S. Lindsey's picture

...I contacted them last year about this issue and others and offered to provide a quote.

They said Thanks...but No Thanks... They had it under control.

I did the original chemical clean-out and vacuum sludge removal over 10 years ago at the old plant site... so....

Oh and btw-did it for a lot less then $320k just saying...

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

If I'm reading correctly, the remediation is for transportation only and involves no disposal (sounds like the county is going to use land as a make-shift drying bed). Is the sludge thin enough to be removed by a liquid vacuum truck, or is it heavy enough to require an air mover?

S. Lindsey's picture

...The cake that has built up over the years of their failure to move the sludge will in all likely hood require a Air-mover... The top layer will be liquid slurry but 12-18 inches down it will be solid and dry...

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

tortugaocho's picture

Sludge is similar to the septic tanks many folks have in Fayette. There are many people posting here that know a lot more than me (S. Lindsey, Husband and Father, Evil Elvis, etc.) and there are people on here with some common sense like Mudcat who says that you should pump it out more often than once every 14 years. The County says septic tanks should be pumped at least once every 5 years. H&F I did look up the word sludge and yes it is disgusting. All we see is a band aid and neither PTC nor the county will look at the root problems.

One last question-- ok---- we have two "sludge lagoons" that are full. How many more sites in Fayette County do we have to hunt for blindly like they did with these two ?

Its just a little annoying that the commissioners call a special meeting today to discuss a pending legal action (most likely district voting) and they ignore the fact that we have a problem sustaining the cleanliness of our drinking water. This really shows me their priorities.

cogitoergofay's picture

I have come to believe critics of Steve Brown: he is inconsistent and unreliable in what he says. This is what Commission Chair Steve Brown told us about the “Stinky Water” in the May 14 Citizen article:

"Brown also said it was not a matter that the county fell short on its lake dredging responsibilities. The county plans to dredge the lake this summer, which will remove sediment that has accumulated on the bottom over the past 10 or so years.
“This is an act of God, it is a natural occurrence,” Brown said. “It is like tornados, lightning strikes and floods. It’s an act of nature.”
Part of the problem is that Lake Peachtree is fairly shallow to be a reservoir, about 10 feet at its deepest, Brown noted. In deeper reservoirs it is less likely for organic compounds to become a problem, he added.
A similar occurrence happened about 10 years ago, Brown said, reiterating that the problem is naturally occurring and not an error that occurred at the water plant.
“The good thing is, it’s not a health hazard, it’s not a health risk,” Brown said. “It’s a severe inconvenience but it’s not a danger to anyone’s health.”


This is simply another case of our local governments ignoring the water concerns and maintenance responsibilities. I wonder how we could have gotten a much clearer warning than with this water issue. The long term health effects of this are very troubling.

For Citizen Article:

S. Lindsey's picture

Cleanup of the sludge, chemicals and other environmental contaminates should occur often... at least every two years, however, they have a tendency to let things slide.

Additionally they do not do a good job shopping for bids and vendors. They allow a single vendor to do the work without a bid process and as a result pricing is not checked.

The end result it cost us more to get the work done.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand


Is the sludge than a by-product of our storm water? Seems to me that rain washes this into the lakes, ponds, lagoons, ect.. and settles at the bottom.

If dredged on a regular basis, this sludge can be spread out on land to dry, or can be cooked to get remove the harmful products.

Could it be that to keep costs down, the county neglected this maintenance issue?

What is "Stormwater Sludge" ? It is the stuff that is carried off during a rain storm and settles to the bottom. It includes such goodies as human waste and automobile chemicals and stuff like gas and oil. Yum, yum, yum... "It's ok for you peasants to drink...It's just smelly...Sorry no refund on your water bill."

At least their damage control/expert/spin man didn't lie. He loaded his report with technical crap (oops, no pun intended) so you couldn't tell what Fayette County, Peachtree City and the PTC Sewage folks did wrong. The EPD ??? Ha...They have books on Stormwater Management but could not care less about enforcing it. Husband and Father asks if "the county neglected this maintenance issue?". How about the County, the City and the City Sewer Authority ignored these maintenance issues.

Of course cleaning out this crap filled sludge is supposed to be done more often than once every 14 years. HELLO !!!

Fayette County--- no thank you...I'll buy my water elsewhere.

The water authority holds permits issued by EPD, who in turn requires every detail be listed in what is called a Design & Operation Plan (affectionately known as the D&O). Permit holders cannot deviate from the written and approved operating plan without submitting a request for modifications. There are two kinds of modifications -- major and minor. Minor mods are easy. Major mods involve public comment. When the article mentions that EPD has "approved" the county's plan to stop using a certain pond, it is referring to a minor mod.

The reason I mention this is because whatever "near closed-loop" problems exist at Crosstown were disclosed in that D&O and approved by EPD. If not, we would be reading about the stiff consent order smacked down. My point is, there ain't no problem that wasn't evident from the very beginning.

As Husband and Father has pointed out several times, stormwater runoff is rife with contamination. I suspect the "near closed-loop" means that the stormwater runoff system within the Crosstown facility operates in a loop, which is common and makes sense ... unless it is left in the pipe or, say, an aeration basin without oxygenation or treatment. I'd mentioned awhile back that I had smelled the odor before, when stormwater was left in a closed loop system and collected (about 125,000 gallons worth) in a large, uncovered basin.

I saw Brownie on the TV saying heads were gonna roll and people were going to find themselves out of jobs. If only his brains were as big as his plums, eh? Parrott should resign. Brown ... well, he's been Fayette County's answer to a question nobody asked long before the water went fetid.

John Mrosek's picture

Thank you, Evil Elvis, for the very enlightening technical background. This is a complicated congruence of engineering and science. For so long we have simply trusted our government to be honest with us. This event shows us the folly in doing that. Thank you again and please keep posting.

PTC Observer's picture

Or could it be that all that "enhanced" stormwater runoff, is actually causing the problem? Could it be that the water that runs off the streets, driveways and other non-permeable surfaces, combines with all the fertilizer that is put on our nice green lawns and flows into optimized pipes to drain into our lakes making the drinking water putrid. Could it possibly be the law of unattended consequences at work? Oh aghast another government program gone awry.

Say it isn't so Elvis!

S. Lindsey's picture

...It is in their budget however it was probably allocated for trips to Jamaica or wherever... Conferences you know.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

And trips to China, too.

on the stinky water, well, they probably voted for him. A simple "yeah, my water stinks too" would have been more than enough from him.

SB and changing stories!! No way...

This debacle is showing how inept our government really is. First the water dept doesn't seem to have a clue what is going on. How many avenues did they search before the state had to come in?

Mr. Brown as spokesman, was just the mouthpiece for the people he thought knew what they were doing. One would hope he learned a lesson not to open his mouth until he knows the facts. He's not one to take the fall, so one would expect that he will deflect blame and possibly ask for resignations. As for the other commissioners, the ones that promised to be individuals, they too just rode the company line (once again) and failed us too. Why didn't they ask any questions. (Who, what, where, when, why, how?) No one expects them to know everything, but when a crisis hits, we should expect them to inquire and dig a little deeper.

I am not letting the costs fool me either. The $320K is just for the remediation. How much money and time was spent trying to locate the problem before the state came in? How much money will then be earmarked so this doesn't happen again?

If you don't change the oil in your car, you end up with sludge that gunks up your engine. A $35 oil change a couple times a year prevents engine wear. In our case, the sludge has filled too many lagoons, lakes, ect...and has resulted in this bad and possibly unhealthy water.

Perhaps the residents in the county, the ones that were fighting so hard against the stormwater fees will wake up and see that if we don't commit to repairing our stormwater system and slow down the flow into our water system, this sludge will continue to be a problem affecting everyones water.

NUK_1's picture

How could I as a normal dude go to Lake Peachtree and Lake Horton a couple of weeks ago and realize instantly that the problem wasn't originating from there? Just taking a Styrofoam cup and smelling/tasting the water coming out of these two lakes was no comparison at all of what was coming out the tap in PTC. I didn't go to Starr's Mill pond.

This wasn't a rocket science experiment, but when you go to the source of the water(blamed on Lake Peachtree)and it doesn't stink and tastes a lot better than what is coming out of your faucet, obviously the damn problem isn't Lake Peachtree or Lake Horton water!

Heads need to roll at the FC Water Dept. I'm not going to climb all over Brown for being wrong here but he obviously put too much faith in what he was being told and I doubt he's going to forget the embarrassment about that either.

Don't think God is going to be happy being blamed by the Brown Clown for something He didn't do. Gonna have some 'splaining to do when your time comes.


Steve Brown's picture

Many of the bloggers posts here are misguided. There will be an accurate assessment in the form of press coming out 5/30 or 5/31.

If you are still experiencing problems with water odor or taste, please call the Fayette Water System at 770.461.1146 and they will address the concern.

Will this one be as accurate as the last one? You know, when you were quoted in the May 14th Citizen as saying it was an act of god and it originated from Lake Peachtree.

LessThan3PTC's picture

I've called the Fayette County Water System. Several times. Flushing the hydrant has not worked any of the times they've been out. The handling of this debacle has been ridiculous. Act of God? I don't think so Mr. Brown. Something stinks and it's not just the water!

PTC Observer's picture

Mr. Brown, tell it to our common sense, you are the leader of incompetent management. Don't make it worse by joining their ranks.

We know you have your hands full. But the transparency is as clear as mud.

The county website states that the water problem has been determined that the odor is due to a reaction from chlorine and the water from Lake Peachtree. The reaction was caused by a significant change in water temperature.

The Citizen quoted you in a May 14th article stating that it was an act of god that started in Lake Peachtree.

The Citizen on May 28th is now claiming that the problem is related to sludge from a Starrs Mill pond.

Then another news source just yesterday is claiming that the county failed to perform millions of dollars on routine maintenance and the trouble is not over quite yet.

Mr. Brown, we are talking about our drinking water here. If your not aware, sludge is a health risk.

Heads do indeed need to roll, starting with the top brass in the water department and the board who is appointed to oversee this debacle.

According to the water committee meeting minutes the problem was first identified on May 7th. That was 23 days ago. We need to know if we can drink clean water, if we can send our kids into the pool this summer, if we can swim in the lake, if we can fish, if we can cook.

Stop monkeying around with everything else and give us what you promised, Transparency.

You Mr. Brown are the one who came on here and told us all was fine, it was the Lake Peachtree water causing the problem. You were wrong.

Now you tell us some of the bloggers are what end are you operating here?

NUK_1's picture

The same complete reversals he's done his entire political career when he realizes how wrong he is and then says nothing at all about being the biggest flip-flopping goof out there.

OH WAIT....there's going to be a PRESS RELEASE yesterday or today about all of this! Woo-hoo! Haven't seen it yet myself and I need some entertainment today.

Yet again, Steve's humongous ego and ignorant mouth got in his own way and I cannot wait to see how he tries to 'splain this away.

Let's guess how he will spin this.

1. He will tell everyone that his initial quotes were based on what the "experts" were advising him at the time.

2. If he doesn't get rid of Tony, he will blame past commissions for not funding maintenance properly.

3. If Tony resigns, he will thank him for his service and move on

4. If he has to fire Tony, he will throw him under the bus.

5. He will reiterate the need for the splost to help fund stormwater cleanup of the ponds.


Channel 2 said it was the city of Fayetteville with the problem! (I guess a 'slip' instead of saying Fayette County! ) With the residents of Peachtree City apparently the main complainers, why is our city labeled with the problem?

They don't know two chits about our side of town.

They pronounce McDonough wrong all the is not McDunna, It's McDonna...I could go on and on. I'm surprised they even covered the story.

Cyclist's picture

We Suck and Blither

I miss the Kimmer.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

I know how you feel. A couple of years ago, I wrote a couple of criticisms of this publication and I got run out-- just ahead of the tar and feathers.

It does not appear that stormwater or runoff had much to do with the water problems. The problem was with Starr's Mill water all the time.
have you been to Starr's Mill in the last few years? It has been stinking and looks like a swamp and smells like a swamp (and still does)why were they even pumping from Starr's Mill anyway? You can observe clearly that the water quality is so much better from Lake Horton and Lake Peachtree. Why so long for somebody at the Water Department to see this OBVIOUS fact? Do they even care where Fayette's water comes from?
I hope they will never pump from Starr's Mill again;at least until they get it cleaned up and cleared up:
don't just take stinky water and put chemicals in it to fake out the smell and taste. Start out with better water and you will be more likely to end up with better water.

It seems like it is a stormwater problem that wasn't maintained. Out there we have the rain washing the horse dung and fertilizer washing in. That's my hypothesis and I'm sticking to it until proven otherwise.

I have heard that they have had beaver issues by the Pond and that could lead to more stagnant water. Glad I have a well..yes it has sediment but it is free and with a good water filter tastes just fine..

Has anyone noticed what an eyesore that water treatment building has become over at the dam end of Lake Peachtree? What a shack! If my house looked like that, I would be cited by the city to clean it up...My gosh, the majority of the siding is gone from one side! I remember how impressive that building looked back in the day in contrast to what it's purpose is/was.

It is actually a much more attractive look than before they ripped off the blue siding that was swaying loose in the breeze there since last fall. If I remember correctly, when reading some meeting minutes, they have approved the siding to be replaced.

However, in government time, that could be in the year 2023.

I have heard rumors that the odors from the organic fertilizer that is used across the road at the community garden actually peeled the siding right off that sucker.

Of course, not to be confused with the stinky water odors. At least not yet.


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