Officials buy water monitor

COVINGTON -- Newton County officials are choosing to be safe rather than sorry by agreeing to purchase equipment to monitor total organic carbon levels in Cornish Creek Reservoir.

In January, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division notified Newton County that a contaminant in the drinking water supply exceeded allowed levels.

An EPD spokesman said there was no immediate threat to the health of residents, and the problem has since been resolved, according to Water Resources Director Karl Kelley. However, to prevent such an incident from happening in the future, commissioners recently agreed to purchase a total organic carbon analyzer from GE Analytical Instruments Inc. for $24,689.

The piece of equipment will monitor organic carbon in water that is to be treated at Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant and will help staff do adequate pre-treatment of the water, Kelley said.

Measurements take place once or twice a month but it often takes weeks to get results, Kelley said.

"We felt like it was important to get this as a piece of equipment we could use every day," he said.

Administrative Officer John Middleton told the Board of Commissioners the equipment would be "an additional tool for self-analysis and evaluation of water quality."

Routine quarterly monitoring of water in distribution pipelines indicated that levels of haloacetic acid exceeded maximum amounts established by the Environmental Protection Agency for the October-December 2009 quarter.

Haloacetic acid is a disinfection by-product that occurs when chlorine used to disinfect water combines with naturally occurring organic materials. The maximum contaminant level for haloacetic acid is .06 milligrams per liter; levels recorded in Newton County averaged .062 milligrams per liter, according to the EPD. The average was based on four samples taken in different locations. Kelley said the higher levels were likely caused by increased runoff due to heavier rainfall.

The EPD required that Newton County notify its more than 100,000 drinking water customers of the situation.

Since then, additional pre-treatment measures have been implemented at Cornish Creek Water Treatment Plant and levels are well below the EPD threshold, Kelley said.