An exhaustive review of the county’s water treatment plants and their treatment processes will cost Fayette County water customers $338,000 in an effort expected to be approved Thursday night by the county commission.
That is the amount negotiated with new water system consulting engineer CH2M Hill, and it includes a 90-day stem-to-stern review of the county’s two water treatment plants in an effort to correct the 10 drinking water rule violations and additional deficiencies from a June review conducted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. EPD’s review followed a period of several weeks in which foul tasting and smelling water was persistent in the water system across the county.
It took CH2M Hill coming on board to discover the problem was not localized at Lake Peachtree as first suggested by the water system director, but instead was due largely to operational problems at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant in Peachtree City.
Weeks later, under questioning from EPD, then-water system Director Tony Parrott admitted that he guessed at the cause of the smelly, bad-tasting water. Parrott was first given a two-week suspension without pay and was later demoted to water treatment plant operator as a result of the foul water episode.
County Manager Steve Rapson, in a memo to the county commission, said CH2M Hill will “fast-track operational enhancements and provide the water system the foundational elements to implement best practices across the organization.”
Rapson previously said he would negotiate the cost of the 90-day review because the county would not want to pay CH2M Hill’s full hourly rate for the intense level of services that was necessary. The money will come from financing the county received last year on a plan to install a magnetic ion exchange treatment process that would remove more carbon material from the water to meet more stringent federal guidelines. That construction has been put on hold for the time being as the county evaluates other options.
CH2M Hill’s review is expected to lead to future capital improvement requests, along with projects to improve water system infrastructure and optimize both water treatment plants, Rapson said in the memo.
Specifically, CH2M Hill is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the filters at each water treatment plant along with specific reviews of other plant equipment cited as being problematic in the EPD report. Beyond that review, CH2M Hill will also conduct a separate assessment of both the South Fayette and Crosstown water treatment plants “to evaluate the existing infrastructure and overall operation of the plants” including the application of chemicals, the status of mechanical equipment and the overall operation of plant processes.
The firm also is charged with developing new standard operating procedures for both water treatment plants and evaluating the water system’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system which provides live monitoring and remote control features. CH2M Hill also will help the county communicate progress updates to EPD officials and prepare a capital improvement plan within 90 days.
The EPD review stung the county with 10 water quality rule violations and a laundry list of “deficiencies” in both broken and non-working equipment as well as operational problems that were cited. The shape of the water system was so bad in that review that EPD recommended Parrott and four other water system employees be investigated for fraud and/or incompetence in their jobs. That investigation would be undertaken by a separate state agency.
County Manager Rapson later sized up the water system problems as being “systemic failures.”
In the wake of the review, the county had each one of its water system employees retrained for their respective jobs, officials said.
The county recently hired Steven “Lee” Pope as its new water system director. Pope most recently was the special projects and compliance technical service manager for the water system in Rockdale County.
The Fayette County Water System serves all of unincorporated Fayette County, Peachtree City, Tyrone, Brooks and Woolsey. The city of Fayetteville has its own water system.