Spring filter performs well in first test

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A water filtration system designed to reduce murkiness of water from the Big Springs water source passed a major test during Wednesday's flooding.
   "It performed admirably," said Ted Leger, director of the city of Elizabethton's Public Works Department, of the $2 million system. Leger said monitoring equipment at the Big Springs plant recorded a high rate of turbidity, or muddied water, at the plant during the flooding. However, the system served its purpose by keeping water from the spring clear by the time it moved to the well supplying potable water to city residents.
   The city spent more than $2 million to construct the water filtration system at the Big Springs plant located on Gap Creek Road. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials directed the city to create a filtration system following high records of turbidity in the water after flooding occurred in the city in 2001.
   The system filters water received from the spring source removing mud and particles that previously discolored water from Big Springs. The filtration project was completed in March.
   "What is so great about it is, it acts like a water plant," said Teresa Nidiffer, chief operator at the Big Springs Water Plant on Gap Creek Road. "The whole process took less than 16 minutes from when it hits the filter and goes into the clean well."
   Leger said flooding caused backed up water and sewer lines around the city, but receding water levels had moved most water/sewer line operations back to normal.
   The Doe River had ebbed considerably on Thursday afternoon after reaching perhaps its highest level since the Flood of 1998. The National Weather Service reported the river hit its highest level at approximately 1 p.m. Wednesday reaching just below eight feet.
   Churning, muddy water washed a moderate amount of debris along the river's path through downtown. A large uprooted tree was stuck in the river between the Elk Avenue Bridge and Covered Bridge. A small amount of tree limbs, shrubs and trash were left along the riverbank from the floodwaters.
   Floodwaters had receded from Cat Island by Thursday morning where a considerable amount of debris remained.
   The city's Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff said ongoing construction work on the Elk Avenue Bridge would likely suffer some minor delays due to the construction.
   "I don't think it is anything insurmountable," said Ornduff.
   The flooding claimed the life of one man in the Watauga River and a 10-year-old girl in Johnson County.