Monday, December 18, 2023

Oconee County Flushed Its Water Lines On Monday To Remove High Levels Of Manganese

Update 12/19/2023

Oconee County Administrator Justin Kirouac reported on Tuesday evening that all of the main water lines in the county had been flushed in response to discolorization of water flowing into the system from the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County.

Kirouac said county staff was moving on to the subdivisions and dead-end lines, with the expectation most of those will be flushed by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Original Post 12/18/2023

***Far Northern Part Of County Mostly Affected***

Oconee County is expecting the discolorization of water in its system resulting from high levels of manganese to have dissipated on Tuesday.

Oconee County Water Resources staff was doing heavy flushing of the lines on Monday, Oconee County Administrator Justin Kirouac said late Monday morning.

Kirouac said that the source water from the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County appeared to have cleared by Sunday evening.

Spread of the discolored water had not made its way through the entire system, and the problem seems to have been concentrated in the corridor between Hog Mountain Road and SR 316, Kirouac said.

The Bear Creek Water Treatment Plant Facility reported Manganese levels of 0.17 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) at 12:00 a.m. on Saturday (12/16), 0.059 mg/L at 12:00 a.m. on Sunday (12/17), and 0.033 mg/L at 12:00 a.m. today (Monday, 12/18), according to Oconee County.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established 0.3 mg/L as a health hazard, and 0.05 mg/L as a secondary guideline due to aesthetic issues.

This means that the Oconee County source water, that is, water at the treatment plant, never exceeded the 0.3 mg/L requirement for a health advisory, coming closest on Saturday morning.

The source water exceeded the secondary guideline due to aesthetics on both Saturday morning and Sunday morning.

Water Source

While Oconee has five wells it uses to supplement water from the Bear Creek Reservoir during high demands months, it shut those wells off in November, Kirouac said in an email message on Monday.

Example Of Discolored 
Water In White Cup 

All of the water coming into the system at present is from Bear Creek Reservoir, the source of the water with unusually high levels of concentration of manganese.

That water enters the county just north of Bogart via an intake vault located at the Barrow County line in the far northern tip of the county.

The water then flows to a line that runs along Mars Hill Road to two storage tanks south of Mars Hill Road west of Malcom Bridge Road.

Cause Of Problem

The Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority said the source of the high levels of manganese was “lake turnover, a natural process where deeper water rises and mixes with upper levels.”

The statement on the Authority web site says the “turnover” typically occurs in transition seasons like spring and fall.

Kirouac said in his email exchange on Monday that this high concentration of manganese has not been a problem in the past and “It's unclear exactly what caused the levels to reach so much higher than normal.”

Both Barrow and Jackson counties also experienced water discoloration, Kirouac said.

Kirouac said the county began flushing its lines at the intake vault and is working its way into the county's main transmission lines.

Bear Creek

Oconee County is a partner with Barrow, Jackson, and Clarke counties in the Bear Creek Reservoir, in the southwestern corner of Jackson County on Bear Creek, a tributary of the Middle Oconee River.

Clip Of County Water System Map With Intake Vault At Top
(Click To Enlarge)

The reservoir is a pump storage design, meaning water from the Middle Oconee River is pumped into the Bear Creek Reservoir for storage and use.

Oconee County also is a partner with Barrow and Jackson counties in the Bear Creek Water Treatment Plant.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners in November approved spending $547,220 for the county’s share of the cost of design services for an upgrade of the Bear Creek Water Treatment Plant from 21 million gallons per day to 42 million gallons per day.

Oconee County will get an allocation of an additional 5 million gallons per day of water from the plant when it is completed.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac said after that meeting that the estimated cost of construction of the expanded treatment plant is $58.5 million, with Oconee County’s share at $13.9 million.

Current Usage

Kirouac in his email on Monday Oconee County currently is authorized to draw 5.5 million gallons per day from the Bear Creek Reservoir.

“For the month of December, we are averaging 2.71 MGD from Bear Creek,” he wrote.

“Our highest draw of the year was 3.93 MGD in August,” he said.

That month, the county used 0.16 million gallons per day from its five wells.

Picture Above

I took the picture above at 9 a.m. on Monday in the bathroom on the second floor of my house in Welbrook Farms subdivision off Daniells Bridge Road.

The water is in a white cup, with an off-white sink top behind it.

The picture has not been retouched, and I checked to make sure the iPhone, with which I took the place, did not distort the color.

The water in my house as I post this at 10 p.m. on Monday is less discolored, but it is still not clear.

The line running to my house, according to the map Kirouac sent me on Monday (and a part of which is shown above), dead ends in the cul de sac at my house that serves only three houses.

I first noticed discolorization on Sunday morning.

No comments: