Auburn’s city administrator said Thursday, March 19, the water from the city’s distribution system is safe to drink and use despite notification from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources that “certain microbial and concentrations of byproducts were detected in” water treated by Barrow County and transmitted by the city.
All of the city’s water customers were sent a letter — signed by Mayor Linda Blechinger and water system operator Elbert Blackstock — earlier this week detailing the abnormalities and the planned steps to correct them.
City water engineers have found that the organics were detected in “microscopic” levels because an aerator in the water tank owned and operated by the county near Carl Bethlehem Road “was not operational,” the letter states, and that the aerator “should have agitated the water and caused this organic matter to be dissolved.”
The city was notified by the DNR in February, according to the letter.
“There is nothing you need to do at this time. You do not need to boil your water or take other corrective actions,” the letter states to customers. “If that had been necessary, you would have been notified within 24 hours.”
City administrator Alex Mitchem said the city has notified the county of the issue and the county has responded that it intends to make the necessary repairs. As soon as those actions occur, the city will flush its water lines, Mitchem said.
“The water is perfectly healthy for people to drink,” Mitchem said. “We were required by DNR to put the letter out there. Had we known the aerator was out, we could have flushed the lines and made it where the (organic material) dissolved. We didn’t know until we got the letter.”
The letter lists three separate material violations — each of them are three-thousandths or less of a point above the permitted level.
The letter discloses that some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of the permitted level over many years may be at an increased risk of getting cancer. And some people who drink water containing trihalomethanes in excess of the permitted levels over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or their central nervous system, and they may be at an increased risk of getting cancer.
Those with a “severely compromised immune system” or who have an infant, are pregnant or are elderly, may be at an increased risk and are advised to seek advice from their health care providers about drinking the water.
“These materials are filtered by most refrigerator, tap or pitcher filters,” the letter states.
Anyone with questions or seeking additional information is asked to contact the city’s public works director, Iris Akridge, at 770-963-4002, ext. 207.