City officials release plan to fix Forest Hills water problem
by Chris Norwood
Sep 22, 2012 | 3878 views |  1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — The city has released a plan to correct persistent problems with discolored water in the Forest Hills area.

The problems in the area began when the Alabama Department of Environmental Management ordered the Mount Olive well closed. To continue to provide water service in the area, the direction of flow in the lines had to be reversed. Water now comes from the surface treatment plant.

“The combination of surface water and ground water and the reversal in flow direction caused an adverse impact on the system, stripping the iron and manganese mineral deposits that had built up over the years from a groundwater well source,” Water and Environmental Services director Chuck Thomerson wrote in a memo outlining the plan. “The buildup of iron and manganese is a natural occurrence in a groundwater system with cast iron and galvanized water lines; these were common water lines installed between the late 1930s and the mid-1960s, in which the Mount Olive water system was constructed. … Likewise, the same effect occurs within the galvanized plumbing of a home built during the same time period.”

In February 2011, the memo contends, a phosphate blend was fed into the lines to inhibit further corrosion of water mains and plumbing, to bind to nuisance materials and to remove metal deposits. This was successful in cleaning the city’s water mains, Thomerson wrote.

“Although we have seen removal of a significant amount of iron and manganese buildup within the system, an individual home only uses an average of 100 gallons of water per person per day. The lower usage results in some homes experiencing a slower dispersal of the buildup within the home plumbing system and a continuous red-orange-yellow tint in the water delivered through their fixtures. While the national average is based on both high and low usage, this would correlate with why some homes would experience worse conditions than others, along with the type of plumbing throughout the home.”

The first step of the plan will be to meet with the residents who signed a petition presented to the Talladega City Council, assess their water consumption needs and begin to distribute bottled water and iron stain remover. Distribution was set to begin Friday.

The immediate response also includes developing a water quality inspection form “for internal use that will be a basis of recording all concerns, issues, inspections and information as it pertains to each complaint received,” according to the memo.

The next step will be to switch to a zinc-based phosphate blend, which will “provide a protective film on the interior of the water mains. In order to implement this change in product, we had to file a request to conduct a 90-day study (of the new substance) with ADEM and wait for receipt of their approval.” That approval was received Monday, and the new substance has been ordered.

“Once this 90-day study is completed and the results are as anticipated, we will proceed with permit modifications with ADEM to continue using this product as a part of the treatment process,” Thomerson wrote. This phase of the plan also involves continuing to flush the water mains to ensure that the new substance is “successfully introduced and apparent in the system.”

After the immediate responses outlined above, the 30-day response plan will begin, according to the memo. This phase begins with an appointment with each resident to discuss customer concerns, identify problems, collect samples for analysis and to discuss service line materials and interior plumbing. They will also provide customer education on how various components of water affect plumbing and proper flushing of a hot water heater.

“Some of the original mains within the Forest Hills subdivision are small, undersized water lines that are the result of increased development and subsequent water demand within the subdivision,” the memo states. “There is a 4-inch steel main connected to the main water line on Taylors Mill Road. As it proceeds within the subdivision it is then upsized to a 6-inch water main; however, the water line that feeds Porter Drive is only a 2-inch water main with only a flush hydrant at the end of the line. The water main on Yesster Lane is also a 2-inch galvanized water line that connects between the north and south Forest Hills Circle.”

The plan of action here involves upgrading the 2- and 4-inch lines to 6-inch PVC mains. “This will result in more favorable water flow throughout the subdivision as well as improve fire protection services,” Thomerson wrote in the memo.

This phase will also involve replacing galvanized service lines from the main to the meter and continued flushing to improve distribution of the zinc based substance.

“The water main looping project on Taylor’s Mill Road, completed earlier this year, was to provide better water flow into the Forest Hills subdivision, thus allowing us to maintain proper chlorine residual throughout the area. Due to elevations of the Mount Olive water tank, the surface water plant and the water demand of the Mount Olive area versus the Forest Hills subdivision, at various times throughout a 24 hour period, the water pressure will vary and dictate the direction of flow,” according to the memo. “So at times the water will still flow up Marble Quarry Road to the Mount Olive System and down Grogan Road before it reaches Forest Hills.” Addressing this problem will involve the placement of a fire hydrant with an automatic flush valve at Grogan Road and Taylors Mill Road, maintaining a proper hydrant flushing program of the water mains and flushing the customers service connections as needed. “Once the hydrant is installed, we can close the valve at this intersection and this will create a flow directly to Forest Hills through the new looped main,” according to the memo.

The 60-day and beyond response plan will be to address the problems coming from the city’s water system and the Mount Olive system, which were designed and built separately and were meant to be operated as two systems.

“A water system hydraulic model is an instrument used to analyze and optimize a system, the memo says. “It determines where the water flow is greater, where pressure zones exist and where water lines are undersized. One of my initial objectives when reprioritizing the goals for the Talladega Water and Environmental Services is to eventually conduct a complete water system hydraulic model.”

This would include “obtaining the cost to conduct a water model of the Mount Olive/Forest Hills area to determine the proper direction in long-term water service in this section of Talladega. This will be valuable information in successfully obtaining our goals of a properly designed water system. This could potentially include strategic placement of additional water tanks or even a new source of well water based on favorable results and findings,” Thomerson said. “Throughout this process, updates will be provided to the residents of Forest Hills and the affected area via email or postal mail. At some point in time, conducting town hall meetings may be beneficial, both to keep the stakeholders abreast of the progress being made and to solicit their feedback. We will proceed with also identifying potential areas for groundwater resources and well development.”

Thomerson concluded by saying, “I want to emphasize that through all the proposed activities, the internal plumbing and hot water heaters throughout the affected area will remain the responsibility of the homeowners. We can provide information, but I would advise against providing any service beyond our water meters.”

To address the fears of some of the residents who appeared at the recent council meeting, Thomerson also enclosed a copy of the most recent independent tests for the system. “We clearly meet the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards and the rules and regulations established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ADEM. I assure you, the staff of the Water and Environmental Services Department does care about the service we provide. It is my duty to see that we continue to improve daily upon our duties in respect to the quality of services we provide.”

Contact Chris Norwood at