Severn Trent investigating pollutant in Lamar County

Larry Stanford Editor

October 7, 2013

Severn Trent and the City of Thomaston have stopped pumping in water from Potato Creek until a pollutant found in the creek in Lamar County can be identified and cleared up, and the source of the pollutant found.

A property owner in Lamar County, who asked to remain anonymous, first found the contaminant in the creek, which runs through his property, last Thursday. It was turning the creek black, had a strong odor, and was killing the fish in the creek. The property owner said he was concerned about the pollutant getting into well water in the area.

He reported it to several local and state agencies, and last Saturday, representatives of the Department of Natural Resources’ Fish and Wildlife Management went out to check on it. The owner and his son bagged 10 dead fish for the representatives, noting that when they reached into the water with their hands to retrieve the fish, their hands and fingers felt numb afterwards.

Monday afternoon, a Lamar County Sheriff’s deputy went out and saw the creek and was immediately concerned, radioing in and requesting the Sheriff contact the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).

The owner said he became concerned about the pollutant getting into the City of Thomaston water supply, which is downstream from his property, and contacted Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold, who notified Severn Trent, which runs the city’s water and sewerage system, of the issue. Severn Trent Operations Director Victor Cozart immediately shut down the Potato Creek pumps and Tuesday, he and an assistant went to the man’s property to check on the pollutant. They took samples to be checked. Both Cozart and his assistant said the odor smelled like wood chips, and that they would be checking the samples for formaldehyde, which is found in pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products. They also did a dissolved oxygen test of the water in the creek on the property. Cozart said fish need about a five percent saturation to live, and the water tested at 1.75 percent saturation.

Two representatives of EPD also came out Tuesday and said there is definitely a problem and they would start an investigation.

It is believed the pollution may be coming from a company in the Barnesville Industrial Park, about two miles upstream from the property.