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Foul water fallout: water system director suspended 2 weeks, told to shape up

County manager says Fayette will challenge EPD sanctions

Fayette County Water System Director Tony Parrott received a two-week suspension without pay after state environmental assessors declared the county violated 10 safe drinking water rules and needed to correct 141 deficiencies in the water system.

County Manager Steve Rapson, in a letter outlining the discipline meted out to Parrott, characterized the water system’s problems in recent months as “systemic failures.”

The suspension will cost Parrott $4,555 in pay based on his annual salary of $118,444, according to county records. He was also placed on a 120-day probationary period.

Parrott and four other water system employees also face an investigation recommended by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division as to whether they “may have practiced fraud or deception,” or might perhaps be “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.” EPD has said it will submit a formal complaint to the Georgia Secretary of State and the State Board of Examiners for Certification of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators and Laboratory Analysts.

Rapson told the Fayette County Commission Thursday night that any water system employee who does not follow the corrective action plan outlined with disciplinary measures he handed down Aug. 23 faces further disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Rapson added that none of the water system problems ever made the water unsafe to drink, and that the county would challenge at least some of the findings in the EPD report.

EPD reviewed the entire water system in June following pervasive taste and odor problems that lingered for several weeks, forcing a number of restaurants to hand bottled water to their patrons and severely inconveniencing many Fayette residents who expect clean-smelling and good-tasting drinking water to flow from their faucets.

EPD ultimately blamed the foul water problem on operations at the Crosstown water treatment plant, specifically the continued use of recycled water from two holding ponds which contained backwash water from the filter cleaning process.

To rectify part of the problem, the county hired a contractor to remove sludge from those ponds, a process that had not been undertaken in a number of years.

Along with the two-week suspension of Parrott, Rapson gave a one-week suspension without pay to Assistant Water System Director Russell Ray, which will cost him $1,693 of his current annual salary of $88,070, county records indicated.

Parrott and Ray were each charged with a performance improvement plan that requires “creating or implementing” the following:

• A comprehensive communication improvement plan;

• A comprehensive corrective action plan for all violations and deficiencies outlined in the EPD report;

• A customer service improvement plan;

• Evaluation and updating of standard operating procedures; and

• A comprehensive capital improvement plan.

The county also gave two-day suspensions without pay to Assistant Water Plant Manager Bill Stephens and Plant Operator II Dan Harrison, while three other water system employees received written reprimands, according to records.

In addition to the foul water problems that began in May and lingered for several weeks, the water system in early August developed problems with high manganese levels in raw water that ultimately led to the temporary shutdown of both the county’s water treatment plants. A consultant who helped ameliorate the issue determined that the incorrect intake gate was used to withdraw water from the Lake Horton reservoir, and that laboratory staff failed to properly test for the higher manganese levels.

That consultant’s report blamed the Crosstown plant shutdown on the failure of the overnight plant operator to notice chlorination levels had dipped significantly due to an equipment failure in the chlorination process.



Same old, same old. A two week suspension to sit at home doing nothing? How about Parrott start getting the testing protocols and procedures up to date? Perhaps work on a better maintenance schedule and place responsibility in getting it done.

There is no way Parrott can get all of the deficiencies completed in 4 months. Rapson will be on him for a short time, then at 4 months, he will declare progress is being made. Then we won't hear squat.

Mr. Munford, find out what items the county will dispute and how long it will take for the EPD to finalize their report. Bet it will be longer than 120 days. I find it hard to believe the EPD would make such strong accusations without merit.

A full investigation should be performed. Where has all the money gone that should have gone to maintenance? I don't remember anyone at the water dept stating they never had enough funds to perform maintence or needed additional funds for testing.

Should the EPD stand by their claim of fraud or incompetence, what then? Fire them? To me, the four commissioners and Rapson appear to be using the EPD as the bad cop because they are just too wimpy to do the right thing and fire them now.

Same old, same old.

Cyclist's picture

and incompetence with a so called performance improvement plan. Keeping the current management team in place is going to be become a liability for the commissioners - IMO.

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

Also the administrator, IMO

All very weak.

What type of leader accepts work that is this far less than average?

suggarfoot's picture

"Rapson added that none of the water system problems ever made the water unsafe to drink, and that the county would challenge at least some of the findings in the EPD report"

Why would we spend our county money to CHALLENGE some of the EPD report findings? They saved us from our own county workers laziness! We would still be drinking improperly treated duck do and run off from people's yard if they hadn't stepped in!

is the phrase used by the county manager in describing what Parrott has allowed.

Since that is what he wrote, how in the world can he also claim the water has never been unsafe to drink?

rolling stone's picture

Where is the proof that the water was safe to drink? Mr. Rapson et al are following the golden rule of entrenched bureaucracy: "Punish others in the same way that you would want to be punished when you get caught screwing up". My suggestion to Mr. Munford is to follow the money.

Wow! Don't believe we are getting our tax/money's worth with Mr. Parrott if the county violated 10 safe drinking water rules and needed to correct 141 deficiencies in the water system. Perhaps Preacher Man Barlow can call upon the Lord to fix our dirty stinky water situation since Mr. Parrott and his partners at the Water Department don't seem be able to.

Barlow must be making wine from his water. Perhaps he shouldn't take a sip before voting to keep a $118k guy who can't manage the baggers at Kroger.

is bottled, according to the recent photo in The Citizen.

Like he expects us to. Let them drink tap.

What vote was that? Don't think there was any vote; disciplinary decisions made & implemented by the Administrator.

According to Mr. Browns letter, there was a vote (perhaps informal) while Rapson was on vacation.

But a vote on WHAT? The decisions on discipline were Mr. Rapson's to make, so again, a vote onwhat?

NUK_1's picture

There is nothing for the BOC to vote upon because Tony Parrot and the Water Dept don't report to the BOC in the first place. It may be under their overall purview, but they don't get a say at all in disciplining County employees besides Rapson, and there are very good reasons for that.

Water Dept reports to the County Administrator Rapson who apparently has angered people because he didn't call for a firing squad to kill several people immediately.

It's also amazing how many people feel like a 2-week suspension without pay, being put on probation, and also charged with taking a bunch of action immediately is considered a "mini-vacation."

I think he can get by with a temporary 5k fine with a 118k package.

Shoot, I would enjoy 2 weeks off without pay. However not because I was a screw up. Too much pride for that.

Unless he comes back to work having worked hard to straighten his mess, it was a vacation. The mess he has to clean up will take close to a year to complete. A 4 month probation is laughable

NUK_1's picture

If the intention is to fire him regardless technically of what happens in the next 4 months, I applaud it. Otherwise, I would agree with you that it needs to be more like a year's worth of probation, even though I think it's now been decisively shown that Parrot is not up to the job and probably hasn't been long before now.

If the intent is to fire him by the end of the 4 month probation period, than I say we have a weak manager.

He is obviously waiting on the final EPD report for fear of some type of lawsuit.

Any first year lawyer could win a wrongful termination suit with the information they have now.

In the meantime, he is putting 100K people at risk.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

2 items in this AM's paper:
1. Tony Parrot admitted he had not set foot in the water plant in 6 months
2. He just "guessed" at the cause of the fowl water based upon smell.

Oh yea, when asked why he doesn't have a business plan he responded "I don't know".

And the employees are starting to speak of deferred maintenance and the more and more that comes out you really have to wonder what Rapson is doing. So far there doesn't appear to be any smoking gun in Rapson's hand, but why he is stringing this thing along with a token suspension and probation is beyond me. Maybe he has concluded Tony is so inept that he won't shape up during probation (after all he has been inept for 30 years) and he will in essence fire himself.

Live free or die!

Told us on these blogs that the smelly water was simply a factor of too much rain washing fertilizer/ waste etc into Lake McIntosh...they are all using the WAG method. Wild A$$ GUESS.

Rapson does have culpability. He has been in charge since mid January.

If he hadn't taken a day to drive around with Tony to see the facilities, he too needs to go.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

One of Brown's least endearing qualities is the viciousness with which he turns on former friends and allies when they disagree with him or God forbid, criticize him. This hasn't happened yet during his term as chair, but the seeds of blowup have been planted when Brown said fire Parrot and his #2 (ignoring the fact that this is not actually county commission business, instead the water board oversees that) and Rapson did not - instead going with the 2 weeks and 4 months.

If in fact there were 7 plant shutdowns in the previous 2 years (as Brown claims) and Rapson didn't see that as something worthy of his attention, yes he should be ousted.

Live free or die!

The Fayette County Water System is a part of Fayette County government, under the direction of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, with a Water Committee acting as an advisory committee to the Board.

If this is all true, Tony needs to be ushered out today under sheriffs watch.

Rapson needs to explain why in his 7+ months on the job he hasn't gotten into his county car and toured the facilities with Tony. Then he needs to be fired. Oh wait, he will probably be fined $20K, and placed on 3 months probation to "shape up".

Isn't this how it works.

With all of the new information coming out about the people that we have intrusted to provide the Citizens of Fayette County with Clean Water and having failed miserably, I believe we the Citizens should look into filing a Class Action Lawsuit. We have been lied to by everyone involved in the guise of covering their own asses instead of doing what they are being paid handsomely to do. Protect the Drinking water of this County. This includes Parrot, Rapson and Brown as they all put their personal interest in front of the interest and safety of their customers and fellow citizens. Tony Parrot hadn't set foot in any of the water plants in 6 months and this is what we are paying him $118,000.00 a year for, to outright Lie to his employers.
At the very least they should ALL BE WATER BOARDED!
I'm sure there's a couple of local lawyers that would take the suit on for free.

Rumor has it that someone has sent the County a 60 day citizen suit notice letter before filing suit. Maybe it's a class action. Meanwhile these clowns are appealing the spanking the state gave them using our tax dollars to pay the "interim" attorney big bucks.

Instead of asking the AG to investigate our ex attorney, perhaps SB needs to call him to investigate the water service dept, water board, and county administrator regarding possible deception and cover up.

Mr. Barlow should be also be included in this just for being stupid in his support of this guy.

It's apparent that Parrott never heard of the technique of "Management By Walking Around"! So just where didhe spend all his time? Doing what?

give my 2 cents...maybe wrapped up in getting that big hole in the ground filled, now known as Lake McIntosh? Who knows what else.

But Brown said he was the only one who wanted them fired. So there was a poll taken.

And you're ok with the punishment and think it can be fixed by those in charge?

How much extra are you willing to spend?

Don't think the Chairman had any say in the "Fire" consideration and his public disclosure of his personal wish which was in contrast to the Administrator's decision was inappropriate and designed to curry favor with certain "hang'em high" citizen opinion. Why do I have to "spend anything extra"? I'll pay my Property Tax as I always do but just may have come discussion with a commissioner about increased water system inreases when I get zero benefit from the system. My water source is a 140ft Drilled Well!

LessThan3PTC's picture

"Parrott and four other water system employees also face an investigation recommended by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division as to whether they “may have practiced fraud or deception,” or might perhaps be “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.” EPD has said it will submit a formal complaint to the Georgia Secretary of State and the State Board of Examiners for Certification of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators and Laboratory Analysts."

Shouldn't take much more investigating to prove they are "incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly." I would say that has already been proven. Giving Parrot two weeks off, after he just had a vacation when all of this negligence first came out doesn't seem like an adequate punishment to me. Fire him. I'm sure there are plenty of other people out there worth the salary this man has been making for not doing his job.

If everything is so hunky dory then why are the commissioners calling experts in to fix things all the time???

The article didn't say if Commissioner Barlow agreed with the punishment after he claimed Mr. Parrott was God's answer to clean water??? What about it Mr. Munford???

suggarfoot's picture

wondered about Tony Parrott's competency a few years back. It seems that the developers were going to put houses around Rivers on lots that were either an acre or less than an acre. The problem was that area was in the country and had no sewer. The solution the builders came up with was community septic tanks. (meaning maybe 50 houses on one septic tank) The reason Tyrone people questioned this was that a developer had just tried that on a home development behind the Legacy Theater with disastrous results. You could smell it for miles. It quite some time to get it fixed so it didn't stink. About the same time, Coweta, had outlawed the community septic for the same reason above. Tony Parrott, steps forward to stands behind the developers stating that if the septic systems fail in this huge development, the county will take over managing them! Can you imagine that the county was going to stand good for the developers? Can you imagine the enormous cost to the taxpayer? And on top of that, take in to consideration what a shamble he has made of our drinking water. The development fell through and I think Fayetteville has annexed that area, but the threat of some real damage to our ego system with several hundred houses on community septic was really scary to some of us.

...And the citizens get DIRTY WATER??

Not a real confidence builder here folks!

What's going w/ this? Is the lagoon N of the bridge gonna be included or just left to fill in? Has this ever been dredged? Anybody ever wonder where all this fill comes from? Anybody ever do any forensics on this? Any of it ever look like sand from a sandtrap? Just askin'

Bob T.'s picture

Were checklists or forms pencil whipped?
Procedures were not followed.

Seems to be a total case of dereliction of duty. Disciplinary action should be immediate termination.

The only things I can think of for the dithering by the county manager on Parrott are:

1) He convinced Rapson that the EPD changed the rules on testing and did not notify the water system that those rules were changed, as in one of the Water Committee meeting minutes in the last year. Fighting that with the EPD could reduce or eliminate any fine they are going to charge to the county. Also, the Brooks saga from the last 3 years..of course that is a cya on his part, since Brooks is claiming no pipes have been changed out that were outlined in the contract with the water system. I'm sure that is a costly mess waiting to be sorted out, too.

2) Isn't every water system required to have licensed personnel operating the system? Well, what licensed employees are left to run things if they fire the only one who has the licenses? This would create a new violation by the county if they do the firing and leave the water system being run by unlicensed people until a replacement is found. A very weak justification, but how long to get a replacement? Could be months.

3) This did not happen overnight. These EPD reports have been coming in over a period of months and each one is more incriminating. Get the facts and then get rid of him. A case could be made for criminal charges, I would think, putting the public at risk should be a crime. That, to me, would be the course for the county manager/BOC to follow, with the proper documentation, along with or as a part of the termination.

Of course Parrott is running around doing a cya. That's why he buddied up to Barlow, since he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer and the most likely to offer repentance with prayer.

Rapson could tap any of the large service providers and have licensed water operators within a weeks time.

Your right, this did not happen overnight. I keep saying the water board has to go and they do. Rapson, if he hadn't taken a tour of the facilities with Tony is also at fault for not doing his job. Sheese, he should have toured every dept and facility within 30 days on the job and had a list of questions to ask each dept head.

If what RWM states is the gospel, SB should be calling the state AG for a complete investigation.

in my comment above, criminality, if found, is directed at the water system manager, not the county.

At tomorrow night's PTC City Council meeting, at the end of the agenda items there is going to be an update provided under staff/council topics on the dredging of Lake Peachtree. I assume this will be done by either the city engineer, Borkowski, or Dr. Pennington. This is a project that Parrott has been involved in and discussed, ad nauseam, by the so-called Water Committee. Parrott just recently said that the US Army Corps of Engineers has come back saying they will not need to be involved in any way.

I strongly suggest our city management get that document in writing and have the city attorney review every single step of this process. I know this is a county funded responsibility, but the importance of this lake to the city is immeasurable and any information coming from the FC Water System right now is suspect. I guess at least one on the so-called Water Committee will be paying attention to this, as he lives on the waterfront on the west side of the lake where some of the dredging will occur. How about the Council call him to answer questions tomorrow night, too?

I do not agree with your assessment of Rapson. His tenure is such a small part of all of this. The focus should be on Parrott and the lack of oversight of this all volunteer Water Committee and the previous county management and BOC. Kracker Jack..wonder how many visits he made to ANY facility..guess that is pretty obvious.

Could the city hold off moving forward with the dredging until this water issues play out?

I am probably too hard on Rapson, because I think he is took the easy way out placing these guys on probation and telling them to "shape up". He has every reason to get rid of them right now.

Rapson, has some culpability here. Tony reports to him. If the story is true that Parrott hasn't been at the plant for 6 months, than Rapson my friend needs to look at his own standard operating procedures.

In the 7 months Rapson has been in charge, one would have thought that he would have taken Tony out to breakfast at Mimi's to discuss the water system and then gotten a first hand tour of the facilities by Tony himself while he asked question after question.

I would bet our new school supt met with all of the division leaders and toured the facilities with them.

Perhaps a suspension, fine, and a "shape up" is due Rapson from Mr. Barlow.

The July 24th Water Committee meeting minutes are online and detail the dredging and the separate issue of drawing down the lake so the Lake Peachtree properry owners can repair and replace or build docks.

For all that is on paper in those meeting minutes (which I find are clear as mud..whoever writes the minutes, does so with absolutely no clarity at all), the dredging is not going to be done till at least next spring, after the project of drawing down the lake for homeowner maintenance. The work is going to be done with the oversight of what will be the newly contracted engineer for the water system. That engineering contract is being decided upon right about now. There are many bidders responding to the RFP to be engineer. The dredging is not a city function, it is a county function. The county owns the lake.

Email Council and ask if they would consider a request to delay the dredging if you feel the timing is not right. It is overdue right now. Should have been done either last year or the year before, and Parrott blamed it on the Army Corps of Engineers not getting back with an answer on whether they need to permit it or not. Just recently, they responded they do not need to permit the work.

Both of you seem to have a lot of knowledge of both city and county workings. Without divulging too much information care to share with me how you became so knowledgeable?

One thing we cannot do on this blog is to detect sarcasm sometimes, but you seem to be an upfront person, and I see a fraction of the sarcasm that I display in my posts coming from you on here. So, I am assuming there is no sarcasm in your question.

My partial answer is that I read a lot. I read meeting minutes, I question a lot. Government is a whole different ballgame from the corporate world. It is scary sometimes how different it is.

That's about all I can share on here right now. Knowledgeable? Maybe informed would be a better description. How do you get your information? You have a healthy interest in what goes on. Wish more in this city and county did.

Just interested I guess.

I can certainly tell you read a lot and actually understand what you read. Not many people do.

You are 100% correct regarding the differences between the corporate and government world. Guess in the corp world one has accountability.

There was a gentleman at the last county meeting who got up and just stated, if he received such a poor report at his job, he would have been fired and rightfully so, right away. Barlow just sat there with a look of bewilderment.

but a truly warped mind (such as mine) could assume that there is a good cop, bad cop scenario going on at the BOC right now with a certain employee.

But in the corporate world, there would be two bad cops and an HR person in the meeting.

I would hope they have been watching this closely and no documents are lost or worse, forged.

The County Purchasing has an existing RFP out for this dredging; Proposals due to Purchasing by Sep 11th. THERE IS NO SET DATE FOR CONTRACT AWARD!

I cannot tell if you are agreeing with me or arguing with my comments. I said the RFP is out right about now. I also mentioned the Water Committee discussions that took place on July 24th. Although not binding, the discussion seemed to point to doing the lake lowering for maintenance first, in the time frame of Jan. thru March 2014 and the dredging later. You are right, no set date has been discussed.

The longer this draws out, unless money has been set aside already, the possibility of the expenses of this whole other debacle could eat up any money that should go to the dredging. Thus, a rate hike or more debt would be in play.

Not doing either--just providing info. Iam truthfully ambivalent about the whole issue. History will show that I avoid PTC issues as I don't live there. And yes,I now who will wind up paying but I suspect more trouble will surely come if it isn't done.

The dredging is a county issue. Apparently, the water system is required to keep the water supply lakes at a certain depth. When the silt comes in, the depth is lowered and becomes out of compliance. At least, that is how I remember It to be. If you had brown water coming out of your faucets, you might be inclined to be bivilant! :)

Maybe so, but in the 27 yrs I've lived here, never a problem with the water from my 140ft Drilled Well! Even when some neighbors had to have new wells drilled due to drought, ours kept producing! Got a good aquifer down there I suppose.


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