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Lebanon water department 'unsatisfactory'
Dec 14, 2005 12:00 am
December 13, 2005
State environmental officials recently graded Lebanon's city water department as "unsatisfactory," issuing a score of 64 out of a possible 100 following a two-day-long visit to the department in September.
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox and Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines downplayed the significance of the report — a "notice of violation" from state officials — Monday, noting the survey found the city's water quality met state and federal standards and posed no threat to the department's customers.
"The violations are not significant," Baines said. "They're violations, and you don't want any violations, of course, you'd love to have a perfect score. But, the truth is, the water quality is excellent, and (the survey) says that."
In a letter to Fox dated Nov. 4, 2005, a copy of which was obtained by The Lebanon Democrat, Louis K. Burnett, manager of the TDEC Division of Water Supply Nashville environmental field office summarized the survey's findings.
According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation letter, the "sanitary survey" was conducted Sept. 21 and 22 and covered the time period from November 2002 to September 2005. The survey was comprised of an on-site inspection and file review to document the operational performance of the city's water system.
"This letter … serves as a Notice of Violation for several areas," Burnett wrote. "Deficiencies observed by Division staff that are a part of this Notice of Violation include construction without approved plans, failure to notify the Division of equipment failure, submittal of inaccurate data, failure to report individual filter exceedances and failure to properly conduct water main repairs."
The first notice of violation, he continued, involved work conducted on two clearwells at the water treatment plant and the Seay Hill water storage tank. The city water department patched cracks in the concrete of one clearwell, painted the interior of another clearwell and sandblasted and repainted the Seay Hill water storage tank, the survey found.
"All three projects required work to be conducted on the interior of the tanks and the addition of compounds that would come in contact with potable water once the projects were complete," Burnett said. "Although proper disinfection was conducted after the work was completed, public water systems are required to submit plans and specifications prior to beginning any projects that may affect the water quality or quantity."
Since the survey, as-built plans and specifications for the three projects have been submitted to the Division of Water Supply for review, he added.
Similarly, the second and third notices of violations involved the failure of the water system to notify state officials of happenings at the city department
In one instance, city water officials did not notify the Division of Water Supply after the Lebanon Water Treatment Plant "experienced a failure of the coagulant feed pumping equipment when the feed line became clogged" in December 2004.
City officials also failed to "accurately report" problems related with the feed pump Dec. 3, 2004, according to Burnett's letter to the mayor.
"This violation does not require public notice to be provided to customers," he wrote. "However, the Lebanon Water Department must accurately reflect the daily operation of the water treatment plant on all report forms submitted to the state."
The final violation documented by state inspectors involved water storage tank disinfection, line repair disinfection and bacteriological sampling.
"During the most recent round of professional water storage tank inspections, the water storage tanks were partially drained to facilitate the inspection and an unprotected individual was allowed to enter," Burnett said. "Upon the inspector completing the inspection and exiting the water storage tank, the water system failed to disinfect the tank or collect a bacteriological sample."
Noting the city's water quality "met state and federal standards at the time of the sanitary survey" and "some areas of the water system showed signs of improvement," Burnett concluded the seven-page letter by listing nearly 20 recommendations for meeting the Division of Water Supply's rules and regulations.
Baines and Fox noted the recommendations have already been implemented at the city's water department.
"Certain things were supposed to have been reported within a 48-hour period, and they weren't reported," Fox said. "But, everything was corrected, but not within that time frame. That's what that notice was about."
The city's water supply is "still very high quality," the mayor noted.
Like Fox, Baines noted the violations largely involved the city's responsibility to maintain records and report any violations as required by TDEC rules and regulations. Baines referred to the state's inspection of the water department as "a service" to the city.
"To me, it's a good check-and-balance thing. To us, it's a way of looking at us and telling us areas where we need to do a better job reporting … They help us have a better system," he remarked, adding the violations were not related to operator-related issues but rather equipment failures.
Still, Ward 3 Lebanon City Councilor William Farmer said he was "surprised" to learn of the notice of violation Monday. He added he believes the city's water and sewer departments should be closely examined by city lawmakers.
Earlier this year, the head of the city's sewer treatment plant, James "Butch" Arnold was indicted on six counts of falsification of records and six counts of forgery. The indictment claims the facility's monthly operating reports to TDEC were falsified or forged by Arnold in April, May and November 2003 as well as in January and February 2004.
"I am unaware of this report, and I believe that the City Council needs to have a work session to discuss the operation of both our water plant … and also the sewer plant," Farmer said Monday. "I cannot comment any further because I don't know anything about all of the details."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.