City lifts water conservation order

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The City of Elizabethton lifted an order to conserve water on Monday after flooding stirred up a moderate level of turbidity, or murkiness, in groundwater springs that supply the city with water.
   "The huge shock of rain caused the rain water to be turbid for a time on Saturday," said Ted Leger, director of Public Works for the city. "We left the notice on for Sunday and Monday because we had a lot of catching up on."
   The city had issued the order on Saturday for Elizabethton, Milligan, North Elizabethton, and Chinquapin areas. The order came after flooding increased turbidity at the three groundwater spring sources-- Hampton, Valley Forge and Big Springs -- that serve thousands of Elizabethton residents.
   All three sources continued to replenish water supply through Monday, Leger said. He also said there was no widespread loss of water use or pressure to his knowledge.
   "The immense amount of rain caused the ground water to become murky. Though the order to conserve has been lifted, residents still need to be aware of the importance of water conservation," Leger said.
   Water tables were returning to normal as clear weather continued through Monday night. Leger said the water filtration system at the Big Springs source site had not been made functional as of yet. He also credited the water department's maintenance foreman George Harrison with maintaining water tank levels to keep water levels stable during the weekend.
   He said that the conservation order did not include a boil order for water customers, an order which asks residents to boil water used for drinking. Rising water levels and lowered murkiness eliminated any need to issue a boil order as of Monday, he added.
   Flood water created numerous problems for property owners and washed over several roads throughout the county on Saturday. Overflowing stream banks spilled water into yards and over roads in town as well as in the Hunter and Stoney Creek communities.
   Deputy Public Works Director Johann Coetzee said Saturday's flooding created problems with overloading sewer pumps at the Powder Branch, Lion's Field, Sycamore Shoals and Cherokee pump stations.
   "We had extra people on duty on the collection system side," said Coetzee.
   The Powder Branch and Lion's Field stations did not sustain bypassed sewer water, and Cherokee station narrowly averted sewer water back up he said. The Sycamore Shoals station did have untreated waste water overflow into a resident's yard.
   "We had a sewer system overload at North E Street and Watauga Street," Coetzee said. "We had some waste water in one resident's back yard. The yard has been disinfected."
   Coetzee said the department's backup truck to pump out sewer lines went out on numerous calls to clear sewer lines during the weekend.
   He said Saturday's flooding did not create the difficulties the city experienced on July 4, 2001 when torrential rains flooded businesses and residences in Elizabethton and across the county. In that flooding event, the city water and drainage systems were overwhelmed, knocking the Big Springs source out of commission while leaving large pools of water in city streets and low-lying areas.
   "It was not as catastrophic as the Fourth of July flooding," Coetzee said. "In this case, the rain wasn't as sudden as the last time so we could get our people in place and react."