The nature of Roswell’s watershed — with fewer industrial and commercial developments — greatly limits the number of contamination threats posed to the city, Director of Public Works Stuart Moring said. Due to Roswell’s reliance upon two flowing rivers, Big Creek River and the Chattahoochee, he also said the likelihood of contamination build-up was small.
Earlier this month, Toledo, Ohio, made international headlines when its water services were suspended due to severe contamination. Although he considers a similar crisis doubtful, Moring said a comparable contamination event in Roswell would prove costly.
“It would be in the millions of dollars,” he said. “For our operation, we would probably have our folks busy for a couple of weeks, pretty much 24/7.”
Roswell Water Operations Manager Michal Leonard said if the city’s water distribution system was contaminated, virtually every service would be affected.
“Your hospitals and all would have to go away from that and use bottled water,” he said. “You would also have another economic impact of us going into the system to flush the mains to make sure we’re clear of whatever was in there.”
However, Moring said the city does such extensive monitoring of water intake that the chances of a major contamination occurring are remote.
“In a way, there’s probably benefit in having an older plant,” Moring said. “You have someone’s eyes on that plant rather than some automated monitoring system.”
Leonard, a former American Water Works Association president, said federal laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act are tightly adhered to on both the state and city level.
“We’re depending on the state, and of course us, to make sure we meet all the regulations,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been here in Roswell, anything that we have needed to strengthen the water plant, I think we’ve been afforded.”
Moring said the greatest individual risks to the city’s water supply is bacteria, with Cumming’s wastewater plant and Tyson chicken plant representing the two likeliest contamination sources. Roswell’s greatest day-to-day contamination risk, he said, comes in the form of urban runoff.
“There continues to be a huge misunderstanding by citizens that the catch basins on the street go to some sewage treatment plant,” he said. “It just goes directly from here into Hog Wallow Creek, which goes right into Big Creek and ultimately, into the Chattahoochee.”
In terms of response preparedness and overall water supply security, Leonard said Roswell was above average.
“Class I water treatment certification in the state of Georgia is the highest you can attain,” he said. “We have four class I’s on staff and three class II’s on staff … as soon as we see something wrong, we start reacting to it.”