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Niki Collins-Queen

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Monroe County, GA should should seek other water sources
By Niki Collins-Queen   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, June 23, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, May 03, 2011

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Repairing the Monroe County, GA's Water Treatment Plant is a waste of taxpayers dollars. (May 4,2011 Monroe County Reporter)

Richard Dumas' April 20, 2011 Monroe Reporter article stated the Forsyth's City Council voted on April 5, 2011 to repair the Boxankle Water Treatment plant. They plan to draw water from two impoundments one above the water treatment plant on Rocky Creek and the other at the Towaliga River's Highway 42 North bridge. Their goal is to pump the Towaliga River's water to a proposed Rocky Creek reservoir to use as a secondary water source to the existing Russellville Water Plant and to act as a back up if something catastrophic happened at the Russellville Water Plant.

Critics believe relying on Rocky Creek and the Towaliga River's watersheds would be a waste of taxpayers dollars. Both watersheds are, for the most part, dry in the summer. It will cost taxpayers an estimated 2.3 million dollars to repair the Boxankle Water Plant when the water could only be treated intermittently. Kevin Ferrel, the Assistant Division Chief of the Water Protection Branch of the Environment Protection Agency (EPD) in Atlanta said the EPD operating permit is only issued when the water treatment plant is complete, has an uninterrupted water supply, produces clean water and does not compromise the watershed. If the plant shuts down for a period of time it would require a revised operating permit. Building two water impoundments, pumps, pipes and a reservoir to aid the storage of water on Rocky Creek would cost many more millions.

Taxpayers would be better served if the City of Forsyth obtained the proper water withdrawal permits and funding for the reservoir, piping and pumps before spending 2.3 million on an obsolete water treatment facility.

The counties of Henry, Butts and Lamar also lower the Towaliga River's water level as they pull 17,500 million gallons of water a day combined for their reservoirs. (See the Georgia EPD 2009 list of surface water withdrawal permits on the Internet).

According to many D.N.R.fishery biologists the pumping of several million gallons a day from the watersheds would be ecologically unsound. Fish migrations from the Ocmulgee would be further impaired, making reproduction of some species impossible. Water fowl, otters, fish, reptiles, and amphibians would find the shallow water undesirable. Property owners will also miss their beautiful streams and the Towaliga River a recreational and environmental icon to many people who come from far and near to paddle and fish would be lost.

Critics of the Forsyth's City Counsel's plans recommend exploring alternate Monroe County water sources. These include piping water from the Ocmulgee River just north of Juliette to a new water treatment facility and use the Boxankle Water Treatment plant as a booster for delivering water around the county. There is a dam wall and lake at the town of Juliette where water can be captured from the Ocmulgee and Towaliga River watersheds.

Get the Plant Camillia Water Treatment Plant on Highway 87 up and running. If the City of Forsyth and Monroe County combine the water from Tobesofkee Creek’s Russelville Dam and the projected five million gallons a day from the Ocmulgee River’s Plant Camillia Water Treatment Plant there would be more than enough water to handle Monroe County’s growing population.

For greater efficiency and more federal and state funding create a Monroe County Water Authority.

Consult with Kevin Ferrel, the Assistant Division Chief of the Water Protection Branch of the Environment Protection Agency (EPD) in Atlanta. He is willing to meet with City of Forsyth officials to brainstorm water management ideas. He can be reached at 404-675-1621.

Can the city of Forsyth, Georgia get enough water from a dry creek? (May 25, 2011 Monroe County Reporter)

Kevin Farrell, the Assistant Division Chief of Georgia's Water Protection Branch, Environmental Protection Division (EPD), expressed concern at the High Falls Towaliga Watershed Alliance meeting on May 20, 2011 that the Forsyth's City Council had already voted to repair the Boxankle Water Treatment plant on April 5, 2011 without knowing the long term low flow rates of Rocky Creek and the Towaliga River. He said the rivers are the lowest they have ever been in Georgia's history for the month of May. Plant Scherer and the Macon Water Authority are currently unable to pull water due to low flow conditions. The May 2011 low flow water levels on the Towaliga River are currently insufficient for water withdrawal.

Because of Georgia's history with low flow rivers and drought all water withdrawal sites should have impoundments.

Farrels's information raises questions about Macon-based engineer Gary Garretson's water flow studies. Garretson, who works with Elmo Richardson who's company has been hired to repair the Boxankle Water Treatment plant, told Richard Dumas, the Monroe County Reporter, his study showed enough water was available in the Towaliga River for the city to pump 93.9 percent of the time from 1938-2010. The gauge to monitor the Towaliga River's water flow was installed at the Hwy. 83 bridge in 2009. There is no water flow gauge on Rocky Creek. Without a gauge there is no way to track the water flow history on either river. Garretson was mistaken when he said the worst period of drought in Monroe County was in 2002 when it was in 2000.

Farrel said the permits for the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant and the Towaliga River are only valid for redundancy (as a backup). The permits are not valid for full time use. Farrel said the EPD was told, “The goal is not to increase water supply it's simply to be a dependable back up supply.” No permit to build a reservoir on Rocky Creek has been applied for. If the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant is changed in any way such as enlarging the existing impoundment a minimum water flow protection rate on Rocky Creek would be required.

Boxankle Boondoggle (June 7, 2011 The Macon Telegraph) 

Engineering firms have been recommending Georgia officials build huge expensive water plants and reservoirs to supply water not only for their current consumers but also to make money by selling it to new residence and neighboring counties. The cities that bought into this logic are sorry now.

Ask the officials who built the new Henry County's Tussahaw Water Treatment Plant. They are stuck with a new expensive water treatment facility and not enough consumers.

Ask the officials who built the Eatonton-Putnam Water Treatment Plant. They had to substantially raise their water rates to pay their debt. A widow that takes bird baths and flushes their toilet only a couple of times a day now pays $56.00 for 1,000 gallons of water a month. The average household pays $137.00 for 6,000 gallons of water a month.

Ask the officials of the City of Canton who are considering transferring the Hickory Log Creek reservoir to Cobb County in exchange for taking over their outstanding debt obligations.

The City of Forsyth officials should expect a substantial debt obligation and the residence should brace for a substantial water rate hike if they repair the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant.

Who comes out ahead? It's not the city of Forsyth or the Taxpayers. The Engineering company is the winner. They collect their money for consulting, overseeing and monitoring the project and walk away whether there is water or not.

Mike Dodd, the Chairman of the Water Committee, is right the City of Forsyth should do Due Diligence by hiring an independent certified engineer that has not been a part of the cities water projects for the last 30 years. They need an unbiased assessment of the water availability for the city before they spend 2.3 million dollars.

Towaliga River residents meet at High Falls State Park by Lisa Dryden-Sayers

Over sixty concerned residents around High Falls Lake and the Towaliga River met Friday night to discuss the City of Forsyth's water extraction plan for Rocky Creek and the Towaliga River. Kevin Farrell of the EPD, Watershed Protection Division answered questions regarding river flow studies and the State permitting process at the May 20, 2011 Spring High Falls/Towaliga Watershed Alliance membership meeting.

The most serious concerns raised by Farrell were the low-flow thresholds of the water in both Rocky Creek and the Towaliga River and the lack of a storage tank or reservoir. A secondary issue that concerned attendees was the apparent lack of joint planning between City and County officials to research and utilize available resources such as Plant Camilla.

The group was stunned to learn that the rivers are the lowest they have ever been in Georgia's history for the month of May. Plant Scherer and the Macon Water Authority are currently unable to pull water from the Ocmulgee River. Farrel said the water flow levels of the Towaliga River are currently insufficient for water withdrawal.

Mayor Tye Howard, the only Monroe official present, said the City of Forsyth's engineers are still doing studies.

Citizens expressed concern that no storage tank or reservoir is required for a permit and that the City of Forsyth's permit is only for “redundancy” (as a back up) purposes. Farrel stated the EPD assumes the City of Forsyth's engineering firm has addressed the questions concerning the streams low water flow and their zero water storage capability when they issue the permit. The ease with which a permit is granted by the EPD also raised concerns.

The directive from the Mayor to the City of Forsyth water committee was to find a quick alternative water supply source. Since both these streams will not sustain any water withdrawal during the summer months it directly contradicts the directive given the water committee by the Mayor.

Disturbing facts surrounding this permit request remain unanswered. If there is no water storage capability or consumer need required to obtain a water extraction permit and neither stream satisfies emergency water resource criteria – the question arises – what is the real goal of this speculative venture? Due diligence in these difficult economic times is being demanded by those residents at the meeting. $2.3 Million is a very expensive “redundancy”water supply that will not be consistently available from streams that are already environmentally at-risk.

Since the mission of the High Falls/Towliga Watershed Alliance is to preserve and protect - we wish to assist all agencies in preventing any degradation of water flow in the Towaliga River watershed and Rocky Creek.

 Stantec Was Unaware of Rocky Creek's Water Flow Problems (Monroe County Reporter September 6, 2006)

In July 2005 Michael Stone reported that Gary Garretson, a Stantec Consulting Services representative, told Mayor Jimmy Pace that the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant and its permit to produce 1.5 million gallons of water a day was valued between six or seven million dollars. Especially since the permit does not expire until June 5, 2011.

I called Garretson and asked it he was aware that Rocky Creek had major water flow, sand and silt problems in February 2006. He said he did not know. He stated that he had not been asked to determine Rocky Creek's water flow.

He said the three-foot deep sand in the creek was not a problem as silt and sedimentation was needed to purify the water. When I told him I was writing down what he was saying for a letter to the Monroe County Reporter he became angry and snapped, “Don't quote me on this! Stantec has not yet signed a contract with the City of Forsyth.

Garretson said he had to go and hung up the phone when I told him my research indicated that silt did cause problems.

Beth Stewart, the Executive Director of Alabama's River Society, told Katherine Bouman, a News Staff Reporter on August 26, 2006 that muddy and sandy water takes more power to clean, requires more chemicals and wears out the equipment. To maintain safe drinking water and preserve aquatic wildlife the Clean Water Act requires roads, developments and other construction to capture silt, sand and sedimentation after a rain.

When OMI was still working for the City of Forsyth one of their employees told Bud, my husband, they were unable to keep the Boxankle Water Works machinery running because of the sand and mud.

I'm sure Garretson will be happy to take the City of Forsyth's 1.2 million to refurbish the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant. He is understandably looking after Stantec's best interest.

Since the water table of Rocky Creek's tiny six-square mile watershed is dropping and has major silt and water flow problems it would be in the City of Forsyth's best interest to consult with an independent expert on watersheds before refurbishing the plant.

To learn more about the City of Forsyth's plan to repair the Boxankle water treatment plant and the proposed reservoirs see Richard Dumas' April 20, 2011 Monroe Reporter article.

To learn how the the drought in 2000 shut down the Boxankle Water Treatment Plant see Paul Judd's April 2000 Monroe County Reporter in April 2000 where David Mercer, the City of Forsyth water superintendent, told Judd, a reporter of the Monroe County Reporter in April 2000 that two years of drought had taken its toll on the Middle Georgia water supply and that Rocky Creek was drying up. Also Debbie Rhyne's article in The Macon Telegraph in November 2000. She wrote how the City of Forsyth had lost Rocky Creek as a water source. She said the state had to approve a temporary permit that allows the city of Forsyth to draw 500,000 extra gallons from Tobesofkee, but in return, the city had to enact tougher restriction on water use.





Web Site: High Falls Towaliga Watershed Alliance

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