“They have had, recently, a couple of instances where they have not gotten — there’s a requirement to submit a monthly report to EPD. We have been late or not getting those reports and we [found] out that they do not have a certified water operator at this time,” said EPD Mountain District Manager Bert Langley. “They did in the past and for whatever reason when that lapsed, they missed the fact that they need to get a new operator. Those are the only two real issues that are outstanding right now.”
Langley said EPD is working with Kingston and there are no plans to enact any form of enforcement against the city. Kingston City Attorney Brandon Bowen said he is researching the best option for the council to take. The city is in need of a water operator, he said, because former operator Billy Baker retired earlier this year.
“I’m not aware of any ultimatum. We do have to get a certified water operator. That’s what Billy Baker did. When he left we’ve got an arrangement with Bartow County. The testing is still being done, but under the law you have to have a certified operator who is over the whole thing, and so we have got to get somebody. The staff we have does know how to do the testing. They’re working with Bartow County’s operator to keep the testing accomplished,” Bowen said.
The testing done with Bartow County includes the biological testing to determine water safety, Bowen continued. Where Kingston is not in compliance is in usage testing, which measures how much the city draws to supply its customers. Although that testing is being done, Bowen said, the October and November tests could not be submitted as the city does not have a certified operator.
“Kingston’s got to get its own operator back. That’s something we’re working on shortly to accomplish,” Bowen said. “We can contract with someone. We can hire someone full time. We can hire someone part time. There are a couple ways to do it. That’s what I’ve been investigating right now is the best way for Kingston.”
In response to rumors that the city council meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 9, was canceled in response to an EPD letter, Bowen said there “wasn’t really an agenda,” and he expects the council will meet at a later date this month.
If necessary, EPD does have enforcement mechanisms at hand if Kingston does not comply, Langley said.
“If they don’t, the consequences can be significant. They hold a permit from us that under the state Drinking Water Act the penalties can be up to $25,000 per day of violation. We’re not obviously going to go there ... this kind of thing happens a lot with some of the small municipal water systems where, just, personnel can go,” he said. “So our whole intent here is just to get them back in compliance, so we have no reason to think that won’t happen immediately. But if it doesn’t, we do have the ability to take formal enforcement action to require it.
“... Kingston has always cooperated with us, so we don’t see any issue here.”