The never-ending Lake Alapaha Water Treatment Plant saga @ LCC 2021-08-10

Back in 2013 and 2014, Lowndes County spent at least $35,500 to “fix” the Lake Alapaha Water Treatment Plant, which had been getting notices of violation from GA-EPD since 2004. In 2018 the county spent another $16,915 to upgrade a water line for a private developer there. These are just the costs we know about.

Back in 2013 Commissioner Demarcus Marshall asked, “The water is good now, right?”

Well, apparently the water is not good, because here we are again, with a proposed $173,000 to fix the same plant. I have sent the county an open records request to get the two proposals and the corrective action plan by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and related correspondence.

At least this time the county did not do yet another no-bid contract to the same engineering firm that did not fix it seven years ago. Maybe this contractor can finally fix this seventeen-year problem. But that won’t fix the county’s chronic problem of assuming responsibility for private water wells for subdivisions.

Remember Lake Alapaha when you see the three rezonings on the agenda for voting Tuesday evening listed as having no “BUDGET IMPACT”, the same as every rezoning before them. Every subdivision affects the county’s budget, for water and sewer, or for roads, or for sending fire or Sheriff vehicles, or the school system’s budget for school busses, not to mention likely increases in flooding due to impervious surfaces. Yet Lowndes County never seems to mention any of that when considering a rezoning.

8.b. Alapaha Plantation Water Treatment Pilot Study

This is the kind of extra expense Valdosta avoided by sinking its water wells at Guest Road twice as deep after Withlacoochee River water was discovered reaching them from Shadrick Sink, on the other side of the Withlacoochee River, and the other side of what is now the Cherry Creek Mitigation Bank, recently sold to Uvalde Land Company, which wants to deannex half of it from Valdosta.

The Alapaha Water Treatment Plant is at 6328 Lake Alapaha Boulevard, Naylor, GA. Go east of Naylor on US 84, right into Lake Alapaha Hidden Cove subdivision, then on the right.

Your location will be on your right (No trespassing All violators will be prosecuted).

The agenda sheet for voting tomorrow evening at 5:30 PM says:

SUBJECT: Alapaha Plantation Water Treatment Pilot Study

DATE OF MEETING: August 10, 2021 Work Session/Regular Session

BUDGET IMPACT: $173,000.00

FUNDING SOURCE: (X) Annual

COUNTY ACTION REQUESTED ON: Alapaha Plantation Water Treatment Pilot Study

HISTORY, FACTS AND ISSUES: The Alapaha Water System is under a corrective action plan issued by the Georgia EPD. Trihalomethanes and halo actic acids continue to be a problem with the finish water. Staff sent out an RFP for a nano-filtration pilot study and received two proposals. After reviewing the proposals, Safbon Water Technology was selected to provide the pilot study. This will be a 12 month pilot study to insure nano filtration can reduce the tri halomethanes and halo acidic acids to the desired levels. Staff recommends approval of the pilot study with Safbon Water Technology and to authorize the Chairman to sign the contract.

OPTIONS: Approve the pilot study with Safbon Water Technology and authorize the Chairman to sign the contract.
Board’s Pleasure

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Approve

DEPARTMENT: Utilities DEPARTMENT HEAD: Steve Stalvey

ADMINISTRATIVE COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

That Lake Alapaha Treatment Plant has been getting notices of violations from GA-EPD since at least 2004. In July 2013, in response to a notice of violation from GA-EPD, the Lowndes County Commission sent a letter to GA-EPD saying it would be fixed by March 2015. In August 2013, they let a no-bid engineering contract to the engineering firm that wrote that letter. They also let another no-bid contract to the same firm in that same 2013 meeting.

In July 2014, the same engineering firm, Lovell Engineering, offered a special reduced price of $71,000 for two sets of water treatment equipment, if the county purchased right then in another no-bid contract, for both Lake Alapaha and Spring Creek. “Commissioner Demarcus Marshall asked if any of this equipement went out for bids. Answer: no, staff approved it.”

In August 2014, Lowndes County asked the Valdosta-Lowndes County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) for a variance for “building location requirements (minimum side yard setbacks).” ZBOA tabled it per request from Lowndes County. The next month, September 2014, Lowndes County withdrew the variance application, saying they planned to by more land nearby. There is no record in the Lowndes County Tax Assessors map that the county ever did buy more land. Parcel 0261 025 was deeded to the county by quit claim in 2006, and there is no other county-owned land nearby.

In February 2015, ZBOA denied a request by landowner Robert Dinkins to not connect to county water. On June 23, 2015, for that same landowner, the Lowndes County Commissioners agreed to pay $16,915 to upgrade a water line to further development he was working on. That was more than the $15,957 the county declined to provide to study public transportation and truck routing. In July, 2018, Lowndes County “memorialized” an agreement with Robert Dinkins and Carolyn Dinkins, to upgrade that water line from two inches to six inches. The regulatory way for that development was apparently cleared back in February 2012, when Lowndes County removed conservation zoning from Robert Dinkins’ property at Lake Alapaha.

So far we know of $35,500 plus $16,915 plus now $173,000 = $225,415 spent to subsidize water for those hundred private houses in a private subdivision at Lake Alapaha. Why does the Lowndes County Commission continue to spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize private developers? As a taxpaying landowner in Lowndes County, I’d like to know.

-jsq

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