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Water woes
Residents say well is unsafe

CONYERS - Pearl Vonderhaar and her Fair Oaks subdivision neighbors said they are looking forward to any move that will get them onto county water and off private well water they deem undrinkable.

Located off Ebenezer Road in south Rockdale County, Fair Oaks subdivision has 54 homes served by a well owned by Mary Perkins. Vonderhaar and her neighbors have organized for the past year to get the county to allow them to connect to the public water system that serves the neighborhoods around them.

Vonderhaar expressed her frustrations with the county in handling their requests for county water to the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners during its meeting Tuesday.

"You've heard our refrain over and over again," she said. "We're asking for a life necessity, clean drinking water, not a luxury."

Rockdale County spokeswoman Julie Mills said the county had been studying the cost to put water lines into the neighborhood. The residents will have to pay to tap into the system.

After a meeting Thursday with engineers at Rockdale Water Resources and county officials, it was decided to move forward with the proposal to give the residents a cost estimate to hook onto the county's water system.

Repeated attempts to contact Perkins were unsuccessful.

The residents said they have noticed some improvements recently such as clearing brush around the neighborhood's water holding tank.

For more than a year the residents have had the water tested and sent to state environmental officials to prove the water is unsafe. Fair Oaks resident Beverly Zerblis said she believed the independent testing has proved the water is unsafe and noted the water in her house has at times been discolored or oily.

Zerblis and other neighbors have also alleged Perkins has done a spotty job of billing for the water service with rate increases done without explanation and bills received weeks after the stated due date.

Zerblis said she has paid her water bill for years on a monthly estimate set by Perkins and has kept track of her water usage to make sure she is not overpaying her water bill.

Mills explained a county response to the neighbors was made more difficult by other issues including EPD test results showing that the water is safe and resistance from the existing water provider to have competing water lines placed in the neighborhood.

Two inspections from state environmental officials indicated the water at Fair Oaks is within the public water safety standards.

According to Brian Boutelle, acting program manager of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's Mountain District Office, which covers Rockdale County, inspectors were sent out to Fair Oaks twice and neither test came back abnormal.

"If we can prove something we would, but there's just nothing on the reports," Boutelle said.

Vonderhaar and her neighbors said they believed the improvements are a response to the attention from EPD, and they are still concerned about the water quality.

But on Thursday, Mills said the county believed it has enough legal authority to install water pipes after a review of state law. No time table has been set, but Rockdale Water Resources will soon begin notifying the residents to determine how many want county water and how much it will cost per household.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.