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Fayette apologizes for stinky water, delayed fix

The Fayette County Water System’s longtime director, Tony Parrott, issued a mea culpa Friday afternoon for the three-week-long stinky water mess.

“I truly apologize for the inconvenience we created for our water customers,” said Parrott. “The problem took too long to resolve and I want to assure the public that we have implemented daily raw water testing to assure we are obtaining water of the highest quality into the treatment facilities.”

The bad taste and smell were caused by two chemicals emitted by blue-green algae, a tiny plant that grew in Starr’s Mill Pond — the water intake point — with the resulting stinky and foul-tasting chemicals being pumped directly into the holding pond for fresh water at the water treatment plant itself.

But it took dozens of angry calls from irate water customers and many days before the system technicians finally figured out they had fingered the wrong culprit — a water temperature inversion — and the wrong lake — Lake Peachtree — as the source of the problems.

That revelation came after both the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and a private water quality consulting firm had been called in to help pinpoint the problem.

Other problems were found at the water plant as well, including the discovery that sludge in a drinking water storage lagoon had last been cleaned out more than a decade ago.

Below is the full news release emailed late Friday afternoon by County Clerk Floyd Jones:

“Independent Tests Show Water Problem Not Caused by ‘Inversion’

“County government moving forward on resolving other problems as odor issues disappear

“Fayette County, Georgia, May 30 [sic], 2013 – After the first week of problems in the water system resulting in taste and odor issues, the Fayette County government began working with the Georgia Environmental Division and a private consultant to rectify the problems.

‘The taste and odor issues were originally 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.

“On May 29, the consultant, Stuart Jeffcoat of CH2MHill, received the 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 assist from Jeffcoat on May 17. There was an immediate improvement in the water quality.

“On May 16 Fayette Chairman Steve Brown contacted the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority for assistance on removing affected water and sludge from the water treatment lagoons. Stephen Hogan from the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority worked with Jeffcoat on an action plan for cleaning the lagoons. EPD has approved the action plan and the work is proceeding.

“’I truly apologize for the inconvenience we created for our water customers,’ said Water System Director Tony Parrott. ‘The problem took too long to resolve and I want to assure the public that we have implemented daily raw water testing to assure we are obtaining water of the highest quality into the treatment facilities.’

“Other maintenance issues have been found at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant and some needed changes in the treatment process have been identified by Jeffcoat.

“Anyone still experiencing a bad taste or odor in their water should call the Fayette Water System at 770-461-1146.”

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