Authorities Say Smithville Water Quality Good Despite Deficiencies

March 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Officials of the Cookeville Environmental Field Office of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation say customers of the Smithville Water System should not be alarmed about the quality of their water, despite a 76 inspection score based on recent violations that has placed the system in the State's \"Provisionally Approved\" category.

Personnel from the Division of Water Supply visited the Smithville Water System and performed a Sanitary Survey on February 8th and 9th, apparently at the request of concerned citizens and, according to sources, the Environmental Protection Agency.

The findings revealed several violations, but none that apparently were serious enough to cause the city to be fined or sanctioned by the state or EPA. City officials say some of the violations have already been addressed and others are in the process of being corrected.

In a letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Johnny Walker with the Division of Water Supply, Cookeville Environmental Field Office, addressed the violations as well as the \"improvements made since the turbidity violation last February. In particular, the implementation of controls for automatic shutdown is a welcomed improvement. This will help eliminate finished water turbidity spikes and/or chlorine feed malfunctions providing an extra line of defense to protect the general public.\"

Tisha Calabrese Benton, Public Information Officer for the Cookeville Environmental Field Office, says the purpose of the Sanitary Survey is to check for potential problems. \"When inspectors do the sanitary surveys, they perform a comprehensive review of the water system and the score is based on that review. An \"approved\" score is 90 or better. \"Provisionally approved\" rates a score of 70-89, and a 69 or below is \"unapproved\".

\"In this case, the sanitary survey did note several things that needed to be done and the water system has certainly been agreeable to that, but I want to stress that none of these things are affecting the quality of the water. We feel the quality of the water at the Smithville system is very good. We do these sanitary surveys and we look for things before they ever affect the quality of the water. But again, nothing in this survey is affecting the quality of the water. The water is as good or better than it ever has been. The system has put better protections in place now than they have had in the past and we have asked them to make some corrections and we have every reason to believe that they will comply with that.\"

Benton further explained that the sanitary survey manual has changed in recent months with some revisions in the regulations and certain things cited in this survey as a violation now may not have been a violation in the past.

Among the violations noted in the report are:

* The Division of Water Supply has approved four construction projects for the City since the last sanitary survey. We do not have on file any construction start notifications for these projects. Smithville or the contractor performing the work must return the construction start notifications to the Cookeville Field Office prior to beginning construction on any project.

* Smithville failed to provide a Tier 2 public notice within 30 days of learning of the violation. Specifically, public notice was not provided until May 2006 for a turbidity violation, which occurred in February, 2006

* Smithville's distribution system standard operating procedures were unavailable at the time of the inspection. The city has since filed a manual with the state for approval.

* Documentation for calibration of turbidimeters was not available. City officials say that issue has since been corrected.

* Bulk chemical storage tanks at Smithville do not have level indicators or a retention basin with a drain around the tanks. Regulations for public water systems require both. Additionally, the chemical feeders and supply lines are in need of maintenance. Smithville must submit a plan to the Cookeville Field Office by April 1, 2007 that describes how the bulk tank chemical storage will be addressed including provisions for day tanks and supply line renovations

* Chlorine feed lines are vented in the chlorinator room. Regulations require chlorine feed lines to be vented to the outside atmosphere. Smithville must vent the chlorine lines to the outside atmosphere by March 15th, 2007. City officials say proper ventilation is on site and was missed by the inspector.

* Smithville collected all bacteriological samples for July 2005 on the same day. Regulations require samples to be collected throughout the month. City officials say employees have been instructed on the proper collection procedures.

* Smithville incurred a treatment technique violation in February, 2006 for having greater than 5% of the turbidity measurements less than or equal 0.3 NTU. We would like to commend Smithville for installing automatic shutoffs at the plant for turbidity. The plant shuts down for turbidity anytime the combined filter effluent stays at 0.2 NTU for 2 consecutive readings. Automatic shutoffs have also been installed for hi and low chlorine readings.

*The City of Smithville has a Cross Connection ordinance, however improvements must be made in operating procedures to ensure regular testing of backflow prevention devices. Said devices have not been inspected since the last survey. All identified backflow prevention devices must be inspected before March 12th, 2007 and documentation detailing said inspections forwarded to the Cookeville Environmental Field Office by March 15th, 2007. Any devices found to not be in good working order must be repaired or replaced by March 31st, 2007

* The intake pump house needs some improvement. Specifically, the interior ceiling needs to be repainted by May 15th, 2007. The floors and equipment need to be cleaned by March 31st, 2007. City officials say those improvements will be made.

* The Smithville Water System did not collect the required number of bacteriological samples after line extensions. City officials say that this procedure will be followed in the future.

The report also stated that \" The bacteriological sampling rate for the Smithville Water System will remain at six bacteriological samples each month based on the population served. State approval to conduct analyses for: turbidity, alkalinity, Ph, temperature, iron, manganese, hardness and chlorine residual is granted to Kenny Dyal (water plant manager). This approval is valid until the next sanitary survey and is contingent upon proper operation, calibration, and maintenance of analytical equipment.\"

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