Earlier this month, City Attorney Andy Davis described escalating concerns about water quality from the Oostanaula River and what action the city might take to seek remediation, citing potential costs in the millions of dollars. Last week, the city took that first step. We outline it below:
Brinson Askew Berry media release: The City of Rome has filed a lawsuit against several Dalton-area carpet manufacturers to ensure the long-term safety and viability of its drinking water system. Brinson Askew Berry partner Andy Davis serves as Rome city attorney and filed the lawsuit for the city.
The city’s suit was filed in response to pollution, specifically PFCs, in the Oostanaula River caused by upstream manufacturing.
Through emergency efforts taken in response to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory announcement, the city has been able to provide drinking water that meets the current standards for safe water.
The city has utilized the Etowah River and Granular Activated Carbon Filters to build a temporary answer to the problem in the Oostanaula River but the Etowah River cannot sustain the long-term water needs of the city.
This suit was filed to make the polluters eliminate the nuisance they created in the Oostanaula River, which will enable the city to once again utilize the Oostanaula River and provide clean, safe drinking water for years to come.
>>For more, please see a story posted in Saturday’s Rome News-Tribune.
Background: A surprise from Monday’s (Nov. 4) Rome City Commission meeting. City Attorney Andy Davis briefed commissioners on the mounting costs associated with pollutants in the Oostanaula River and what the next likely steps could be. As much as $20 million or more in overall costs are possible as pollutants found in the Oostanaula — manmade and associated with carpeting and manufacturing upstream — need to be remediated, Davis says.
A summary of Davis’ presenation includes:
- The Oostanaula River served as a source for Rome’s water needs for years. Because of pollutants and other issues, the city of Rome chose to draw from the Etowah River in 2016.
- Studies from the federal Environmental Protection Agency showed some of the Oostanaula samples were double the safety standard recommended by the agency. (EPA background)
- While stopgap methods have been used to tap the Etowah instead, those costs are mounting, says Davis. The include pumps, jacks and now the potential cost of a new water line as well.
- Also, he briefly talked about issues with the Etowah such as other water basins tapping into the Etowah for their respective water needs upriver from where Rome draws its resources. That and drought conditions can make the Etowah potentially unreliable as a water source, he says.
- The Oostanaula, on the other hand, has abundant water — but also has pollutants that aren’t being remedied before entering the waterway.
- Basically, Davis asked the city to adopt a resolution to take necessary steps to handle what he called a public nuisance. He mentioned the potential need of using reverse osmosis, something that is commonly used in Florida communities where fresh water is an issue.
Davis recommended the commission take action and Mayor Bill Collins asked for a motion which was made by Commissioner Evie McNiece and seconded by Commissioner Wendy Davis. It passed unanimously without additional discussion. Collins said the commission had held a prior closed meeting to discuss potential litigation. That’s one of three areas where Georgia’s Open Records law allows elected officials to meet behind closed doors; the other two are personnel and real estate matters.