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.

No comments: