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Vidalia Announces Long-Term Plan For Water Quality Improvement

Vidalia Mayor Doug Roper and Engineer Trey Gavin met with citizens in a town hall forum on August 12 to address concerns with the discolored water throughout the city and to present the municipality’s plan of action to solve the issue. The pair shared a presentation of planned action with the community before inviting citizens to voice their thoughts at the conclusion of the meeting.

The plan of action is founded upon two types of tactics: operational initiatives and capital initiatives. The operational initiatives include a flushing program, chemical optimization, and annual cleaning while the capital initiatives were key pipeline replacements and WaterValve additions and replacements. Gavin explained discolored water within the city system could be occurring because of old cast iron and rusted pipes, or manganese and iron in the water, which are naturally forming and safe minerals. These minerals tend to settle during low usage periods, resulting in water discoloration; on the contrary, the minerals stir in the water used during high usage periods because of the decrease in reservoir.

Vidalia plans to regularly use a unidirectional flushing strategy to regularly clean the pipes. This flushing will usually occur at night and will consist of a strategic opening and closing of valves within an area to create a forceful transition of water through pipes, which will clean them. Gavin warned that use immediately after flushing may result in discolored water, but the activity should ensure the pipes are clean. Also, regular flushing during the day will still occur to freshen water with “dead ends.”

The city uses a polyphosphate strategy to chemically treat and test the water, which they plan to optimize for the best possible results. For this to happen, the chemical will be released more quickly following flushing to coat the pipes but will not be overused to avoid remains left in the water. Vidalia will follow the amount of chemicals suggested by Gavin to ensure the correct mixture.

Also, the water tanks are currently only cleaned once every two years. However, Vidalia plans to clean all water tanks this year to ensure that sediment is not contributing to the issue and polluting the water.

As a long-term project, the city plans to replace the old main water system, which is made of cast iron and galvanized pipes. The cast iron pipes will be treated first, then the remainder. Also, new valves will be installed in the system to ensure improved flushing. This project will use some of the municipality’s ARPA COVID recovery dollars, but the city plans to continue to apply for grants to minimize any tax rate increases.

The flushing program, chemical optimization, and tank cleanouts will begin to occur next month. In September, October, and November, design engineering will begin for the replacement of the main water system; the following December and January will be the bid and contract period. Mayor Roper hopes to begin construction in March of 2022, which could take six months to a year to complete.

Roper stressed that the city will be in communication with its citizens and those affected when the water is being flushed or worked on. The flushing process will result in a decrease in water pressure, or possibly a complete water outage. “If you experience a water outage and have not been contacted by a city employee, please let our administration know,” he said.

Gavin advised residents that if discolored water occurs shortly after an area has experienced the flushing process, they should turn on an outside water faucet and flush the water until clear. If the issue persists, they should remove the screen/aerator from their faucet lowest to the ground (first story or basement) and run cold water until clear. If the water then clears, they should replace the aerator or screen. If these procedures do not work, they should call the Vidalia City Water Department.

Roper stated he is hopeful that through these measures, citizens may see an improvement in their water quality. “We are doing the best we can and will work until we solve the issue,” he said.

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