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Water still safe, city fined over $10K in procedure issues

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By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

The City of Lebanon has been fined at least $10,200 in an order from the state Division of Water which says the city failed to comply with state water quality regulations.

And the fine could include an additional $15,000 if the city fails to “show good faith” in complying with those requirements in the future, said Sherwin Smith of the Division of Water.

However, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said there is no reason for concern about the quality of water in Lebanon. “I’m still drinking it everyday,” he said Tuesday when ask if a ruling handed down by the Tennessee Division of Water Supply meant there was any problem with the quality of local water supplies.

“This is a situation where someone didn’t get notified when they should have,” he added.

The order which was issued on Jan. 12 cites several instances when regulations were not followed.

Lebanon Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines said the issues are actually related to procedures and not actual water quality.

“We were using the American Water Works Association standards for how the sampling needed to be done,” he said, but noted that he thought differences had been ironed out after a meeting in the summer of 2008 with State Division officials.

“At the end of the day we agreed we would do the testing by their standards,” he said. “So I was surprised to get this fine.”

Baines explained the AWWA says if you get a positive sample you flush and retest the line. If the second sample is negative then the water is safe, but the TDEC rules say you have to disinfect, flush and retest.

Smith said, however, that at that meeting on Aug. 13, 2008, “The city failed to offer any reasonable explanation for why they were not compliant.”

He added that in October the Division sent a letter to the city notifying officials that their score was unchanged and legal action would be taken.

“When you look at these violations it is obvious that there could be cause for concern about water quality,” he said. “The regulations are there to remove any doubt about water quality.”

The first time the Division issued a notice of violation saying the city had done construction without the approval of the division of water was Nov. 4, 2005. It also said at that time the city had not notified the Division of an equipment failure and that in December 2004 the city had submitted inaccurate data.

Later in September 2005 the report said the city failed to monitor turbidity and failed to properly test the repair a water main. At that time, according to the Division, the city also failed to properly disinfect water after lines were repaired and did not collect required bacteriological samples.

The city was later cited for failing to collect repeat samples in 24 hours after a positive coliform test on July 4, 2006.

On July 21, 2008 the city was cited for not having documentation and being unable to locate records to verify testing following coli form positive results after a Tennessee Quik Cash water line project. This project also was changed but no As-Built plans were submitted, Smith said.

As a result of these findings, the city is being ordered to pay $10,200 within 30 days if it does not appeal the case.

The mayor says the city is “working on putting together a response to each of the items. Then we will contact the attorneys for the state and see what we can do to deal with this situation without an appeal.”

In addition, if the city does not prove compliance with five items listed in the order there will be an additional $15,000 in fines due. However, the mayor said there are policies already in place to deal with all of those issues.

The issues include:

• submitting construction plans to the division prior to starting construction, • submitting disinfection and flushing information and As-Built plans in connection with the Tennessee Quik Cash Project, • properly disinfecting, flushing and collecting bacteriological sample from all new construction projects and any dewatered or depressurized water line repairs, • maintaining accurate records of turbidity and reporting same to the Division of water.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at

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