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Public Tours Water Treatment Facility

News Editor

Photo by Lydia Berglar – A young resident watches the water being pumped directly from Lookout Creek to the station.

On the afternoon of Feb. 2, the Dade County Water & Sewer Authority hosted a tour of the water intake and treatment station at the corner of Highway 136 and Gulch Road. The public was invited to see how Dade County’s water is pulled from Lookout Creek and how it is treated.

Frank Hawkins, plant manager, explained, “You don’t think about water until you turn your faucet on and there is no water. We turn dirty water into clean water…A lot of people want to know about the big wells we have. We don’t have wells. We get water out of Lookout Creek.”

The operation is non-stop, with employees working around the clock every day of the year. Sherri Walker, general manager, noted that a total of 20 people work for the authority. There are nine pump stations and 14 water tanks across the county.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Water samples are on display in the lab. From left to right: water from the creek, water during the treatment process, water ready to be pumped out to the community.

Hawkins continued, “We can filter and pump out 3.8 million gallons a day, which is 2,600 gallons a minute. We have about 7,000 customers that we supply water to – almost all of Dade County and about 800 customers in Walker County on Lookout Mountain.”

At the time of the tour, Lookout Creek was about five feet deep. If the creek ever reaches 1.25 feet, state mandates require the station to drop to 1.5 million gallons a day.

Customers on both mountains face a slightly higher bill than customers in Trenton because of the additional work to pump the water. Hawkins said, “We pump to Sand Mountain, and we pump twice to Lookout Mountain. We have customers that are actually in Alabama and in Tennessee, and we’re tied in with Alabama so we can supply them with water and they can supply us with water if we have a problem.”

Hawkins explained that the amount of water pumped up to the station from the creek is tracked by a flow meter. The team then adds three chemicals. First, they add a coagulant. “It’s real sticky, so any dirt particles and bacteria clump together.”

Photo by Lydia Berglar – The control panel shows which pumps are running, indicated by the green buttons. At the time of the photo, the plant was running 1,200 gallons a minute.

The water then sits in the settling basin before going through a filtration system. Hawkins said, “You get some fairly clean water before it even goes through the filters. Then, we add chlorine, a disinfectant that kills any bacteria.” The third added chemical is fluoride.

Hawkins continued, “The measure of cloudiness of water is called turbidity. Right now, the turbidity coming out of the creek is 10. We reduce it to 0.02.”

Hawkins noted that Lookout Creek flows from Valley Head, Ala. “In Valley Head, there’s a spring that flows to Fort Payne and a hundred yards away, there’s another spring that flows here.”

In compliance with Georgia laws about safe drinking water, the authority is holding a public meeting on Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. at 72 Case Avenue to discuss the raw water intake improvement project.

Photo courtesy of Sherri Walker/Dade County Water & Sewer – Plant Operator Matt Smith rakes out the bar screens during a heavy flow of leaves and debris.

As explained in the Dec. 28 issue of the Sentinel, excess debris has been damaging the station’s pumps. In order to avoid future disruption and expenses, the authority is working on a project to filter the debris.

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