Monday, August 31, 2015

Volunteer Group To Sample Water From Barber Creek Near Sewage Spill In Oconee County

Sign At Creek: Keep Out

Volunteers from the Upper Oconee Watershed Network (UOWN) plan to do sampling from Barber Creek tomorrow morning upstream and downstream from the sewage spill on Aug. 21.

Vicki Soutar, a retired Oconee County science teacher and UOWN volunteer, will lead the group. The goal is to determine if the spill had lasting impact on the water quality of the creek.

Soutar has been active in sampling from Oconee County creeks for years and is spearheading an effort to increase the monitoring of county streams in the future.

Soutar and colleagues have called a meeting for from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the Oconee County Library on Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville to discuss ways to increase citizen involvement in assessing stream quality.

That meeting is open to the public.

Details Of Spill

The county reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on Friday, Aug. 21, that a spill had occurred at approximately 11 a.m. at the corner of Mars Hill Road and Barber Creek Drive.

The county estimates that between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons of untreated wastewater flowed into a tributary of Barber Creek during a 30-minute period after a sewer pipe was ruptured by a construction crew.

Smelled Of Sewage On Saturday

The tributary flows into Barber Creek a short distance from the site, just downstream from the Mars Hill Road bridge over the creek.

The county told the EPD that G.P.’s Enterprises Inc., contractor for the widening of Mars Hill Road, “struck a marked county force main causing a raw wastewater spill.”

The county told the EPD that county and G.P. crews repaired the break “before we could arrive to take photos of the break.”

Testing Done

According to the records sent to the EPD by the county on Aug. 25, Paul Ludwig from the Utility Department drew samples from Barber Creek upstream and downstream of the tributary on Aug. 21, Aug. 22 and Aug. 23.

Wayne Haynie, director of the Utility Department, told Apryl Singer, Oconee County Environmental Health manager, on Aug. 24 that the county tested for acidity, temperature, fecal coliform and dissolved oxygen.

“The initial test results show no adverse effects to the water quality,” Haynie wrote.

“(I)n accordance with state and local regulations, no additional testing is required,” Haynie wrote.

Sign Installed

The spill, according to the county records submitted to the EPD, was near where a small tributary to Barber Creek comes out of the ground after being piped under the intersection of Mars Hill Road, Daniells Bridge Road and the Oconee Connector.

The records submitted to the EPD by the county do not show that any sampling was done of that tributary, which, on Saturday afternoon when I visited it, had very little water flowing in it.

The smell of sewage was noticeable.

Sign At Bridge Over Tributary
Click To Enlarge

A sign at the bridge over the tributary leading to the Barber Creek Business Park warned anyone who saw it to “avoid contact with waterway and area beyond this sign.”

According to the records sent to the EPD, the Oconee County Utility Department sent the required legal notice to The Oconee Enterprise, the county’s legal organ, just before 10 a.m. on Aug. 25.

Jenanne White, administrative assistant in the Utility Department, indicated in the correspondence with the notice that she expected it to appear in the Sept. 3 edition of the paper.

Meeting on Sept. 24

The meeting at the Oconee County Library on Sept. 24 is the outgrowth of a gathering of UOWN volunteers at Dominick’s restaurant in Market Center west of Butler’s Crossing on Aug. 26.

Soutar chaired that meeting, attended by nine individuals, myself included.

Bruno Giri, president of UOWN, suggested that the time may have come for residents of Oconee County to create their own group to do water monitoring, particularly in light of problems with the county’s wastewater plants in recent months.

UOWN has done sampling of selected county streams for years and responded quickly when a significant problem occurred at the county’s Calls Creek plant this spring.

At the meeting at the library, the group will discuss ways of involving the community, and particularly young people, in stream monitoring.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Public Hearings Set On Tax Increases For Oconee County Government and Schools

Required By Law

Oconee County citizens will have a series of opportunities this week to express their views on what amounts to tax increases both for county government and for the county’s schools.

While the Board of Commissioners has held the tax rate constant from last year, the increase in property value translates to tax increases of 3.45 percent for the unincorporated parts of the county and 2.95 percent for the incorporated parts of the county.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Oconee County Commissioners Postpone Decision On Old Mars Hill Road Pending Input From Public

Luke Most Outspoken

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night turned back Chairman Melvin Davis’ attempt to get funding for the reconnection of Old Mars Hill Road to Mars Hill Road itself, but it agreed to revisit the question in a month.

The Board also learned that the actual cost of the project will be $140,000 or more, not the $115,000 originally listed.

Oconee County Reporting A Sewer Spill Into Barber Creek Due To Mars Hill Widening Project

Upstream From Subdivisions

The Oconee County Utility Department is reporting a spill of 5,500 gallons of sewage into a tributary of Barber Creek as a result of the widening of Mars Hill Road.

The spill occurred at 11 a.m. on Friday when the contractor for the Mars Hill Road construction project hit the force main at the corner of Mars Hill and Daniells Bridge roads, causing a break in the line, according to the county.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Oconee County Commission Chairman Asking County To Spend $115,000 For Mars Hill Road Modification

On Tuesday Agenda

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis is asking his fellow Board members on Tuesday night to spend up to $115,000 to create a connection between Old Mars Hill Road and the new Mars Hill Road now under reconstruction.

The change will benefit a landowner who asked Davis to alter the road design, according to email messages among county officials.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Oconee County Animal Shelter Holding Petfest On Saturday To Raise Money For Adoption Program

Free To Public

The Oconee County Animal Shelter is holding a petfest on Saturday at Heritage Park in the south of the county to raise money to support the Shelter’s adoption program.

The event will include pony rides and face painting for children, food and crafts for the adults, and low cost rabies vaccines and microchipping for the pets.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Audience At Oconee County Meeting On Mars Hill Road Land Use Voiced No Support For Project

Given Little Time To Complain

About 40 people showed up last Thursday night at a meeting in Veterans Park to learn about county plans for development of Oconee County’s Mars Hill Road corridor, and none gave evidence of being there because of happiness with how things are going as the two-lane road is widened to four lanes.

Bill Ross, hired by the county as a consultant, told the residents as the meeting got underway that he wanted to hear from them, but he also said the meeting would last only an hour.