Houston County water system earns accolades from state

WARNER ROBINS — A drink of cool, clear, clean water on a hot afternoon is a wonderful thing.

Having it available by simply turning the tap is even better, and for the third time in the past five years the Houston County Water Department has won best in the state awards for outstanding operation of its Feagin Mill Road and Henderson water systems.

The awards are presented annually by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.

“There are about 1,600 community water systems in the state, and about 1,000 of them are in the ground water categories Houston County competes in, so it is a pretty big pool of systems. And (Houston County is) consistently among the best systems,” said Bryan Wagoner, communications director for the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.

“They sort of set the standard, so we even have a requirement now that winners have to sit out the next year to give other facilities a chance to win.”

The state’s water systems are divided into two broad categories — surface water and ground water systems.

Surface water systems, mostly north of the fall line, use treated water obtained from streams or rivers. Ground water systems use water pumped from wells drilled into subsurface aquifers.

Houston won in the ground water categories for large (more than 10,000 customers) systems for its Feagin Mill system and small (less than 1,000 customers) systems for its Henderson plant. The county also has small system plants in Elko and Haynesville.

Since 1995, Houston has won 34 state and national awards for overall operations, water quality and taste, laboratory excellence or safety.

In that time, the Feagin Mill system has won the outstanding operation award six times, the Henderson system has won five times, and the Haynesville and Elko systems three times each.

“We’re blessed to have good water and good employees here operating our water systems,” Houston County Commission Chairman Ned Sanders said last week as the eight members of the water treatment staff were honored at the commission meeting.

“That’s not only great for our residents but also for our industries that depend on a plentiful supply of clean water to operate.”

Grady Trussell, the treatment division supervisor, said his crew is divided into two shifts, with employees working four 10-hour days a week monitoring, testing and servicing the treatment systems.

“All our wells, treatment plants and water tanks are computer monitored from here in the central office, and our guys have laptops they can use in their trucks to operate the systems. So if there is an alarm for a pump going down or a water main break, they can respond wherever they are to redirect flow to keep the systems pressurized and flowing.”

Trussell said the county is required to test 50 samples a month for bacterial or E.coli contamination.

“We actually have 150 sites we draw test water from, rotating them each month so we are constantly checking different areas of the county. And we do other spot checks when requested by customers,” he said.

Trussell said Houston County is fortunate to have an abundant and clean source of water to handle its growth.

“We’re fortunate that our water is very pure right from the ground. We don’t have the problems with iron and manganese and other minerals some of the granite aquifers have,” he said.

“We also have an abundant supply. This ... aquifer isn’t inexhaustible, but we’ve been free from some of the problems other areas in the state have had from the drought the last couple of years. Still, people should follow the state’s even-odd day outdoor watering regulations and conserve when they can.

“Clean water is a treasure we shouldn’t waste or take for granted.”

To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.