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Supervisor says water is safe

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By Leslie Moore

 

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It's used to wash hands, replenish the garden and quench our thirst. 

Once it's pulled through the pump station at Green River Lake, Campbellsville's drinking water has a long journey before it reaches the tap.

The multi-step treatment process that water undergoes upon entering the Campbellsville Municipal Water Treatment Plant takes about eight hours from start to finish.

Plant supervisor Darrell Pierce said the plant treats about three million gallons daily, but has the capacity to treat up to nine.

He said the first step involves adding activated carbon to absorb compounds that will form disinfection byproducts when it comes in contact with liquid chlorine bleach later in the treatment process. A coagulant is then used to remove contaminants and impurities in the water settling basins.

A top priority is conforming to strict regulations for turbidity - the cloudiness of the water. Pierce said if one were to look at vial of water taken directly from the lake, it would appear hazy because of the particles of dirt and impurities it contains. He said these particles pose a hazard to public health because they encapsulate bacteria, viruses and other contaminants.

Pierce said maintaining the proper chemical dosages to remove turbidity is the most challenging aspect of the treatment process because it can often vary depending on the condition of the water.

"Right now the water is running fairly clear - most of the time all summer long it hardly changes," Pierce said.

But in the rainy season from January through May, more dirt and sediment get washed into the water and can make determining appropriate chemical concentrations a little complicated.

"You have, two, three, four inches of rain in a 24-hour period and you've got to really be on top of it to make sure it doesn't get out of control," Pierce said.

The presence of blue green algae that was confirmed in the lake last year has been silent this year.

"I mean, we've noticed a little bit, but nothing on the scale it was last year a couple times," Pierce said. "We've brought in an extra chemical to treat it, but we haven't had to use it."

In the 16 years Pierce has worked for the water treatment plant, he said, very little about the water treatment process has changed. However, the plant now uses liquid chlorine bleach instead of gas chlorine. While the gas chlorine was sufficient to clean the water, Pierce said it posed an inhalation hazard to plant workers. Liquid bleach, he said, is much safer and similar in makeup to common household bleach, although the concentration used by the plant is higher.

When the water is sent to the distribution system, a residual amount of chlorine must remain for disinfection purposes.

Distribution supervisor Hal Gore said this is a state regulation and is necessary for disinfection in the event of a line break. Boil water advisories are also issued when a line is repaired because there is a risk of sediment inside the line flaking into the water while the pressure is turned off.

Pierce said the dirt that comes in contact with the line when it is dug up can also contaminate the water.

"They do chlorinate it and flush it, but, as a precaution, they issue the boil water advisory," Pierce said. "It says we don't know because we haven't tested." According to Gore, it takes about 24 hours to receive the water test results.

"We have to call the state in order to get the advisory lifted because the state releases all water advisories," Gore said. "We have to call the state every time we have a leak or water line break."

During an advisory, Gore said all water used for human consumption should be brought to a rolling boil for three minutes. Pierce said even those households with in-home water filtration should comply with the advisory because the majority of filtration systems available to consumers can only filter out chlorine.

Even when the distribution system is operating smoothly, samples are taken from 15 locations twice a month and tested for contaminants like E. Coli. He said chlorine levels are also monitored daily.

Gore said the city has made several improvements to the water distribution system in recent years. He said the new million-gallon water storage tank on KY 55 will help improve water pressure throughout the community and plans are in the works to build another in the near future. Although older tanks, such as the soon to be dismantled one on Summit Drive, don't have an impact on water quality, Gore said overtime they become prone to rust holes and leaks that are expensive to repair.

He said the ongoing replacement of older water lines throughout the community is also beneficial to residents.

"If we have a lot of leaks on a street or road that cause problems or if the pressure flow drops, we try to pick our problem areas and replace those lines first," Gore said.

The distribution system is also responsible for routinely flushing the county's 550 water hydrants to prevent the build up of sediment in the lines.

"We flush hydrants for water quality once in the spring and once in the fall as part of the state's requirement to ensure everybody has good, clean water," Gore said.

Pierce said he never doubts the safety of the drinking water because it meets all regulations mandated by the state. He said fluoride is also added for dental health.

Cheryl Sullivan, comptroller for Campbellsville Water & Sewer Co., said the office receives very few complaints or questions from customers about the quality of the drinking water.

"Some people are on dead end lines where there is no circulating system," Sullivan said. "If they don't use a lot of water, the water can sit in the pipes and needs to be flushed out from time to time."

Pierce said the only complaints he has received are about the taste of the chlorine.

"Some people are more sensitive to the chlorine than others are, but the disinfectant has to be there," Pierce said. "It's that or E Coli."

If a resident notices a change in the taste of their water or a difference in pressure, Sullivan said it's a good idea to call the water company's office at (270) 789-3133. If there is an emergency after hours, callers will be directed to the emergency line.