Potato Creek offline as pollution investigation continues

Larry Stanford Editor

October 12, 2013

Potato Creek pumps remain shut down as Severn Trent and the City of Thomaston continue to investigate the polluting of the creek upstream. A property owner in Lamar County, who has asked to remain anonymous, first found the contaminant in the creek, which runs through his property, on September 30. It was turning the creek black, had a strong odor, and was killing the fish in the creek.

The property owner contacted officials in Lamar County and Thomaston, along with the EPD, concerned about the pollution getting into nearby wells and also possibly contaminating Thomaston’s drinking supply. When notified, Severn Trent, which runs the water and sewer system for the city, promptly shut down the Potato Creek pumps and began investigating the pollutant.

Tuesday, Victor Cozart, Director of Operations in Thomaston for Severn Trent, said chemicals were found in samples taken both on the property, and on Allen Road in Lamar County, further downstream from the property.

“Something was found at the Allen Road site - formaldehyde,” Cozart said, who added that the amount of formaldehyde found is not dangerous. “For a child weighing 22 pounds, 10 milligrams per liter is considered a dangerous level. The lab results were .14 milligrams per liter,” Cozart said. “That is very low.”

Where the stream ran through the property upsteam in Lamar County, several chemicals considered ‘volatile organics’ were found, including above normal limits of acetone and butanone, which are used in manufacturing and also can accumulate in landfill sites.

Cozart said the source of the pollutant is believed to be a lumber company in the Barnesville Industrial Park, which is about two miles away from the Lamar County property.

“Jordan Lumber Company is where the spill initially occurred,” Cozart said. “They have a leachate basin, and it overflowed their basin and into the tributary which leads down to Potato Creek. It was reported and that’s the only report that I’ve got.”

The industrial park is also the location of the old Lamar County Landfill, which is now closed.

As for the safety of the water in Potato Creek, after discussing the issue with City Manager Patrick Comiskey, Cozart said the decision was made to keep Potato Creek out of the water system while Cozart continues his investigation.

“Potato Creek is still offline and we are still doing some more investigation before we make a decision to put it back online,” Cozart said. “We’re living off of Hannah’s Mill and Lake Thomaston, kind of going between the two and keeping Potato Creek isolated.

“One of the things that me and Patrick talked about was me going back and doing some more sampling. Maybe then we can figure out what’s going on.”