Echols suffers water outages

Jun. 5—STATENVILLE — Within the last two weeks, residents of Statenville in Echols County have suffered two water outages and been under a boil water notice.

The trouble began on May 21 when members of the Echols County Water Authority’s board received text messages that the Georgia Department of Transportation was going to close Ga. Highway 129 north of Statenville to make repairs, said Kevin Tomlinson, president of the water authority board.

The culprit was erosion, leaving a water pipe exposed, he said. An hour later, the pipe broke.

GDOT said the repairs were to a damaged culvert, and that there was a washout under the southbound lane as a result of water gushing from the pipe.

It took the GDOT two days to pack in dirt well enough that the county could repair the pipe, which turned out to be the major line for Statenville’s water system, bringing water from a water tower, Tomlinson said.

The work was finished May 24. A boil water alert had been issued for users of the system. “Whenever there’s a major loss of pressure in the system, we have to issue a boil water notice until we get samples back from the lab that show the water’s safe,” Tomlinson said.

Only days later — May 29 — more text messages were going out: The pipe had broken again.

“GDOT employees were in the hole May 29 when water started gushing in,” a GDOT statement said.

The pipe had broken at a spot very close to where it had been damaged originally, both the GDOT and Tomlinson said. The GDOT said that its equipment never touched the water line and that “vibration from work near the water line” may have been the cause; Tomlinson said the removal of a nearby piece of guard rail by an excavator was the cause.

More repairs were made and the boil water advisory was lifted on June 1, he said.

The GDOT said they had no idea there was a water pipe there until the first pipe break; Tomlinson said the state agency was, in fact, notified beforehand of the pipe’s location. Both sides provided The Times with copies of documentation to support their claims.

During the long water outages, the Echols County Emergency Management Agency arranged for tanker trucks to bring in drinking water, while Second Harvest of South Georgia provided “a lot” of bottled water for Statenville residents, Tomlinson said.

Second Harvest provided two shipments of water for Echols County: the first was 18 pallets of bottled drinking water, followed by 12 pallets of non-potable hand washing water, said Jana Luke, the group’s director of development and marketing.

Terry Richards is the senior reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times.

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