Hiawassee mayor knew to include county in fluoride vote

Investigative Report, News
City of Hiawassee - fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In recent weeks, FYN investigated and reported details leading to the exclusion of Towns County voters’ ability to weigh-in on the upcoming City of Hiawassee fluoride referendum on the May 19 ballot. Towns County citizens, who expected to have a say as to whether fluoride would be added to the local water supply, did not take the news in stride, publicly voicing stark opposition to the controversial additive.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded to the upset in a press release, stating that the City of Hiawassee was unaware that the signatures of both city and county voters were needed on last year’s petition to secure a ballot referendum for the full scope of water consumers to decide. “All parties were under the impression that all water users, City and County, were to be included in the vote. We are now being told that since the signatures were for the City jurisdiction, that only the City voters would have the opportunity to vote on this matter,” Ordiales stated in part on March 7.

Click to view full statement from Mayor Ordiales

FYN’s investigation has proven otherwise. Based on documents received, Mayor Ordiales was made aware by state authorities, in addition to the local elections board, that county voters would be exempt from participating in the fluoride referendum without the required, petitioned signatures of county citizens.

Following information gathered from Corbin McLain — a county activist who stated that she gathered only city signatures per instruction from Mayor Ordiales in late-August/early-September of 2019 — FYN filed an open records request with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to review copies of correspondence exchanged between the mayor and the state agency.

“Based on the 2018 Wholesale Water Written Agreement that you submitted between Hiawassee and Towns County, the Attorney General’s Office determined that since Hiawassee Water System reserves up to 45% of the water capacity to Towns County Water Authority, Hiawassee Water System and Towns County Water Authority both have a right to the finished water, with Hiawassee (55%) and Towns County Authority (45%),” EPD Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey advised Mayor Ordiales on May 22, 2019. “For the purposes of the referendum under O.C. G.A § 12-5-175, both of the combined systems are considered as one. Based on the opinion of the Attorney General’s office, the petition for the referendum should include 10% of the registered voters who voted in the last general election from Hiawassee Water System and Towns County Water Authority.

Click to read: Fluoride may soon be added to Hiawassee’s water supply

A mere 35 signatures were ultimately collected, however, solely from the City of Hiawassee voter base despite Mayor Ordiales’ knowledge that 10-percent of county voters’ signatures were necessary to include all water consumers in the controversial vote.

City of Hiawassee - fluoride

An email exchanged between Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales and the EPD.

“I just received the numbers from our elections board and it looks like we’ll need to get 875 signatures. What is the
needed information for the petition,” Mayor Ordiales asked the EPD in an email dated May 30, 2019, solidifying the fact that Ordiales was well-aware of the mandated stipulations.

Several Hiawassee City Council members, in addition to Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, expressed shock in learning that county voters will not be involved in the potential inclusion of fluoride, a decision that will affect water consumers beyond Hiawassee’s city limits.

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County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

Hiawassee mayor responds to county’s exclusion from fluoride vote

News
Hiawassee fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As previously reported by FYN, Towns County voters will not have a say as to whether fluoride is added to the City of Hiawassee’s water supply. The decision will lie solely in the hands of Hiawassee voters due to a lack of signatures collected from citizens to place the issue on the county ballot.

Click to read: Citizens, activists react to inability to vote on fluoride

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded to the contested issue on Saturday, March 7.

“In April of 2019, EPD during their annual inspection of our Water Treatment Plant asked why The City’s water system was not being fed fluoride,” Ordiales stated in an email. “After much research, there was documentation dating back to 1983 that showed a petition was received that substantiated that fluoride NOT be added to the system.  EPD stated that there should have also been a referendum and an ordinance passed for that effort to be complete.  The second part of that process was not done.  Since the City is the managing operator for the Water Treatment Plant, it was determined that there only need to be 10% of the citizens that voted in past election that needed to sign the petition to allow for a referendum and a ballot vote.  Those signatures were obtained by Corbin McClain [sic] and were submitted to the Elections board in September 2019.  All parties were under the impression that all water users, City and County, were to be included in the vote.  We are now being told that since the signatures were for the City jurisdiction, that only the City voters would have the opportunity to vote on this matter.  That news was discovered this past week.  The May 19th ballot will contain the questions…’Should the City of Hiawassee add fluoride to the City’s water system? (Yes or No)’.”

FYN contacted McLain, the Towns County resident who volunteered to collect the petition signatures to place the issue on the May ballot. McLain stated that she was instructed by Mayor Ordiales to garner signatures solely from city citizens, purportedly based on information received from the EPD.

Hiawassee fluoride

A 2019 letter addressed to Mayor Ordiales from the EPD.

The EPD, however, released the following statement to FYN last week: “The City of Hiawassee and Towns County, under the 2018 Wholesale Water Agreement provided to EPD, each have a right to the finished water produced by the Hiawassee Water System (HWS); HWS gets about 55 percent and the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority (TCWSA) about 45 percent,” Kevin Chambers, EPD Director of Communications, said. “Based on that agreement, EPD advised that the TCWSA and HWS are considered one system for purposes of O.C.G.A. 12-5-175 and that all water system users should be allowed to petition for and vote in any referendum.”

Feedback from county citizens on the inability to weigh-in on the matter proved swift as Hiawassee water consumers outside of the city limits continue to make their thoughts known via social media.

County citizens not permitted to vote on water fluoridation

News
Hiawassee fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – According to the Towns County Board of Elections and Registration, Towns County voters will not have a say on the May ballot as to whether fluoride will be added to the City of Hiawassee’s water supply. Towns County Board of Elections Chair Janet Olivia delivered the news to FYN on Tuesday, March 3, stating that a municipality is not authorized to call for a ballot referendum that includes input from county voters.

Although many county residents and businesses receive water through the City of Hiawassee, according to Olivia – who stated that the elections office consulted with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker on the matter – the fluoridation decision will be determined solely by voters residing within Hiawassee city limits.

Click to read: Citizens to decide water fluoridation on May ballot

FYN contacted the City of Hiawassee and Towns County government for clarification on the matter, as both entities were seemingly under the impression that both city and county citizens would vote on the controversial topic of fluoridation.

FYN is awaiting additional information from Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker at this time.

On March 4, FYN contacted the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) who recommended last year that both city and county citizens vote on the issue. “The City of Hiawassee and Towns County, under the 2018 Wholesale Water Agreement provided to EPD, each have a right to the finished water produced by the Hiawassee Water System (HWS); HWS gets about 55 percent and the Towns County Water and Sewer Authority (TCWSA) about 45 percent,” Kevin Chambers, EPD Director of Communications, said. “Based on that agreement, EPD advised that the TCWSA and HWS are considered one system for purposes of O.C.G.A. 12-5-175 and that all water system users should be allowed to petition for and vote in any referendum.”

Continue to follow FYN for updates on the May 19 fluoride referendum.

Citizens to decide water fluoridation on May ballot

News
Towns County fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County residents will be given an option on the General Primary ballot, May 19, regarding the addition of fluoride to the City of Hiawassee water supply. A petition opposing the addition of fluoride was circulated in the community in 2019, garnering enough signatures to place the decision on the ballot for both Hiawassee and Towns County consumers. According to Hiawassee City Hall, 35 citizens signed the circulated petition, enough to advance the referendum.

The City of Hiawassee received notice in early 2019 from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that the mineral has not been an additive in the water supply for decades.

“During the routine inspection, it was discovered that the Hiawassee Water System did not add fluoride as a treatment process,” EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey wrote in an email obtained by FYN. “According to the current ORC, Mr. Randall Thomas, Hiawassee WTP has not treated the water with fluoride in over 20 years. All potable water sources must be fluoridated, according to the Rules for Safe Drinking Water 391-3-5-.16 Fluoridation. Amended. In certain cases, some water systems had received a waiver from the state or there was a vote within the board of the water system as to not add fluoride to the drinking water.”

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded, informing EPD that a vote to reject local fluoridation had taken place 36 years prior. Ordiales included a copy of city council minutes from 1983 as evidence.

FYN reported public opposition to fluoridation after Fluoride Action Network published FYN’s initial report on the city’s intent. According to its mission statement, “Fluoride Action Network seeks to broaden awareness among citizens, scientists, and policymakers on the toxicity of fluoride compounds. FAN provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and remains vigilant in monitoring government agency actions that impact the public’s exposure to fluoride.”

Fluoride is the ionic form of fluorine, the thirteenth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is released into the environment naturally in both water and air. Its concentration in water is variable. Water is the major dietary source of fluoride. The variability in water content explains much of the variability in total fluoride intake. Other important sources of fluoride are tea, seafood that contains edible bones or shells, medicinal supplements, and fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride compounds are also produced by some industrial processes that use the mineral apatite, a mixture of calcium phosphate compounds. Dietary fluoride is absorbed rapidly in the stomach and small intestine. One-quarter to one-third of the absorbed fluoride is taken up into calcified tissues, whereas the rest is lost in the urine. In bone and teeth, fluoride can displace hydroxyl ions from hydroxyapatite to produce fluorapatite or fluorohydroxyapatite. About 99% of total body fluoride is contained in bones and teeth, and the amount steadily increases during life. The recommended intake for fluoride is expressed as an adequate intake rather than recommended dietary allowance, because of the limited data available to determine the population needs.

The adequate intake for fluoride is 0.7 mg daily for toddlers, rising to 3 mg daily for adult women and 4 mg daily for adult men. It remains unclear whether fluoride is truly essential, although fluoride may have some beneficial effects. Once taken up into bone, fluoride appears to increase osteoblast activity and bone density, especially in the lumbar spine. Fluoride has been suggested as a therapy for osteoporosis since the 1960s, but despite producing denser bone, fracture risk is not reduced. Indeed, there is some evidence that nonvertebral fractures may be increased. The only known association with low fluoride intake is the risk of dental caries, acting through both pre-eruptive and post-eruptive mechanisms. The American Dental Association strongly supports fluoridation of community drinking water supplies; however, strong contradictory opinions also are held.

Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service recommended that public water supplies contain between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L) of drinking water to help prevent tooth decay.

This recommendation was updated in 2015 to a fluoride level of 0.7 mg/L, The change was made in part to account for the fact that people now get more fluoride from other sources than in the past. Natural drinking water sources in the US have an average fluoride level of about 0.2 mg/L, although in some areas it can be much higher.

 

Sewer spills at Hiawassee’s ‘shutdown’ station

Investigative Report, News
Sewer shutdown - Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Problems related to a sewer lift station that the City of Hiawassee allegedly decommissioned last year continue to literally surface in the form of wastewater seepage, along with a need for Towns County assistance. FYN received citizen reports of an apparent waste spill at the city-owned lift station known as Roadrunner on Saturday, Dec. 28. The information was later confirmed through Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD). The EPD launched an investigation into the Roadrunner shut down in November, and the case remains open and active at this time. The investigation was spawned due to negative effects on businesses located in Towns County’s entertainment district.

Click to read Hiawassee disconnects multiple businesses from sewer system

Click to read EPD launches investigation into Hiawassee sewer shutdown

“The report indicated that an overflow of approximately 50-100 gallons of raw sewage occurred from the city’s Roadrunner lift station due to a malfunctioning float switch, but that the sewage did not enter state waters,” EPD District Manager Mick Smith said in response to the recent seepage. “The report indicated the operator was on-site when the overflow occurred and that the sewage was contained on site.  This was verified by the city’s operator this morning.” Smith stated that city staff applied lime to minimize the odor incurred. Hay was additionally strewn on the soiled site.

Hiawassee sewer system

City of Hiawassee employees responding to the Dec. 28 sewage spill.

Float switches monitor water level changes. At a certain water height, the switch is activated, turning the pump on and off. Spills from untreated wastewater can pose a hazardous effect on the ecosystem and public health.

Furthermore, Towns County Fire and Rescue was summoned to service the Roadrunner station on the morning of Jan. 2. Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland explained that the City of Hiawassee requested county assistance with “backflushing” the sewage well. City of Hiawassee Clerk Bonnie Kendrick stated on Friday that the wastewater in the lift was diverted to Shallows Creek on Route 288 and that the station in question remains bypassed.

The fact that the lift station spilled and required backflushing left business owners adversely affected by the alleged shutdown questioning whether the city had decommissioned the wastewater well after all.

Ken Merritt, the property owner of multiple businesses involved in the dilemma, believes that the City of Hiawassee may have specifically targeted the county’s entertainment district. “My question is, if they are deactivating the line and turning it off to save electric bills, why is it still running, and why does it need to be? Who is still using it, and did (the mayor) just shut us off?”

FYN took Merritt’s concerns to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales for answers.

“The Road Runner lift station will be used by the city to routinely provide maintenance to the wastewater system,” Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales said. “The cause of the seepage this past week was due to the pipe being clogged north of the Ridges lift station.  This, while not being a common occurrence, happens periodically.  The TC Fire Department, with their force water pumps, have been gracious and very helpful in the past to assist with such issues.  That was the case in the past week’s issue.  This is normal maintenance of our system, and we will continue to provide such maintenance as needed throughout our system.”

The function of lift stations is to ensure wastewater makes it to the treatment plant. The power of gravity is utilized to shuttle the material. Because of how mountainous the local terrain is, however, wastewater needs help along the way. That’s where lift stations come in. They elevate the wastewater so that it can reach a position to rely on gravity, assisting in the process.

Merritt and his legal counsel are considering their next steps toward Mayor Ordiales, council members, and the City of Hiawassee itself. “The issue that the lift station is still functioning and serving others makes it appear that (the mayor) just wanted to shut us down,” Merritt said. Merritt – upon advice from the mayor – recently installed a costly, higher-powered pump in the lift station to increase the push of waste toward the city’s treatment plant.

In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to the EPD by Merritt’s attorney, legal counsel claimed that the “unilateral decision of the City of Hiawassee to discontinue the use of and the bypass of the Roadrunner lift station” has harmed the Merritt’s system due to excessive reverse pressure on the network. “The City of Hiawassee has continuously charged a monthly sewer service bill to each property owner connected to and using the sanitary sewer extension,” the attorney added.

According to the EPA, when the power supply is interrupted, flow conveyance is discontinued and can result in flooding upstream of the lift station. It can also interrupt the regular operation of the downstream wastewater conveyance and facilities.

Merritt’s lift station, located adjacent to Sand Bar and Grille. Merritt hired a septic service to remove thousands of gallons of waste over the course of many weeks after the city disconnected multiple businesses from the sewer system.

Merritt further claimed that the City of Hiawassee did not consult with civil engineer, Don Baker, who designed the sewer system regarding the Roadrunner shutdown. FYN is currently awaiting a return call from Baker on the matter.

FYN spoke with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw last week on the issue, due to the fire department’s involvement and the fact that several county departments filter through Merritt’s disconnected lift station. Bradshaw stated that the City of Hiawassee is solely responsible for the sewage system, although the county is willing to assist in backflushing the city’s wastewater well as needed.

Continue to follow FYN for information on the City of Hiawassee’s sewer saga as developments occur.

 

Feature Image: Towns County Fire and Rescue assisting the city’s lift station on State Route 76.

 

 

EPD launches investigation into Hiawassee’s sewer shutdown

News
Hiawassee sewer

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources – Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has launched an investigation into the City of Hiawassee’s controversial “Roadrunner” sewer station shutdown. FetchYourNews (FYN) broke the story on the repercussions of Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales’ decision to disconnect numerous Towns County businesses from wastewater disposal earlier this week.

Hiawassee sewer disconnected from businesses

Merritt’s lift station, located near Sand Bar and Grille on State Route 76.

Click to read: Hiawassee Disconnects Multiple Businesses from Sewer System

Georgia EPD Director of Communications Kevin Chambers confirmed this morning, Nov. 15, that the state department has opened an investigation into the matter. A field agent from the environmental division visited the city-owned Roadrunner site Nov. 14, along with the privately-owned lift station maintained by Ken and Dana Merritt, stakeholders connected to several impacted businesses in Towns County’s entertainment district.

Sodbusters, a Hayesville-based septic service hired by the Merritts to dispose of the quickly-accumulating waste, reported Nov. 15 that the sewage vault has required 70 pumpings – which amounts to approximately 91,000 gallons of total waste removal – at a rate of eight truckloads hauled for disposal per day since the ordeal began.

“(Disconnecting the Roadrunner lift station) addresses several issues that have been long-standing,” Mayor Ordiales said in part earlier this week. “The odor from that area has been an issue for over 13 years, the need for weekly maintenance to that lift station, the need to have utilities present, both water and electricity, the maintenance and repairs of two large pumps valued at over $15,000 each, and the maintenance of a large electric panel to operate that lift station.” Mayor Ordiales stated that the initial decision to shut down the facility was reached in December 2018.

Lift stations require a source of electric power, and the Merritts claim that discontinuation of the city sewage site is not only a threat to the environment but caused damage to their privately-owned lift pump. According to the EPA, when the power supply is interrupted, flow conveyance is discontinued and can result in flooding upstream of the lift station. It can also interrupt the normal operation of the downstream wastewater conveyance and facilities.

Hiawassee sewer system

Diagram of lift pump operations.

“The City was unaware of the (EPD) inspection but always welcomes input to make our system work more efficiently and effectively,” Mayor Ordiales told FYN on Nov. 15. “During their inspection, they did find that there was trash around the area that was not picked up in a timely manner. EPD contacted the City this morning, and The City addressed their concerns and reported back this afternoon.” Ordiales added that fines were not imposed as a result of yesterday’s inspection.

EPD stated that a timetable is not affixed to the pump station investigation. Merritt, who spoke with the field agent on Thursday, indicated to FYN that the EPD’s preliminary findings suggested that the private pump appears to be “in compliance” with state regulations.

Continue to follow FYN for updated information on Hiawassee’s sewage situation as developments occur.

 

 

Hiawassee disconnects multiple businesses from sewer system

News
Hiawassee sewer disconnected from businesses

HIAWASSEE, GA. – Numerous businesses and residences in Towns County are left without a previous means of wastewater disposal following an alleged “unilateral decision” by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to discontinue the use of a city sewer lift station known as “Roadrunner” on State  Highway 76. Wastewater lift stations are used for pumping wastewater or sewage from a lower to higher elevation, particularly where the elevation of the source is not sufficient for gravity flow.

Ken and Dana Merritt – stakeholders concerned with the affected businesses and residences – contacted FetchYourNews (FYN) following reported attempts to remedy the foreboding situation through Mayor Ordiales, and subsequently, members of Hiawassee City Council whom purportedly suggested a lawsuit against the municipality.

“We have multiple business interests in the Ridges area of Towns County….” Ken Merritt began. “The mayor of Hiawassee has disconnected all of these entities from the sewer system and sewage has been seen overflowing from the lift station which has been in operation since early 2000. The sewer system was designed by the city’s engineer, approved by the city council, and has worked well since it was completed. The mayor decided arbitrarily without engineering council that she would shut down an adjacent lift station because of the electrical cost. Consequently, the lift station in front of Sand Bar was left to move the flow of sewage three-and-one-half miles to the sewer plant. It was never designed for that purpose and the sewage has backed up into the vault and overflowed onto the grounds. It makes no difference to the mayor that countless people and businesses that pay a monthly sewer bill are just a day or two away from having their toilets overflow.”

Merritt stated that he has hired a septic service to remove and dispose of the waste from the sewage vault at a rate of 3-to-4 times per day, following the City of Hiawassee’s cessation of the Roadrunner lift station. Merritt explained that failure to remove the waste would result in above ground seepage, forcing connected businesses to close their doors. Furthermore, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division (EPD), issued a warning that a civil penalty of up to $50,000 per day could be imposed due to the proximity of the Merritt’s waste system to Lake Chatuge.

“The City is constantly striving to run a more efficient and effective operation,” Mayor Ordiales responded. “In review of the current sewer system and with the impending expansion, the decision to by-pass the road runner lift station was made in December of 2018. This by-pass addresses several issues that have been long-standing; the odor from that area has been an issue for over 13 years, the need for weekly maintenance to that lift station, the need to have utilities present, both water and electricity, the maintenance and repairs of two large pumps valued at over $15,000 each, and the maintenance of a large electric panel to operate that lift station. The City consulted with City engineers and electricians prior to making the final decision to decommission the Roadrunner lift station.

“The lift station that is failing is not a City-owned and operated lift station,” Hiawassee’s mayor continued. “It is privately owned by Dana and Ken Merritt.  That lift station was installed over 17 years ago and it was accepted by (the) City for use by the businesses that were operable at that time.  Since then, there have been many new businesses added to that area that utilize that lift station.  The area has simply outgrown that lift station.  The City has been working with the Merritts since March of 2019 to correct the issues on that privately-owned lift station.  The city will not spend taxpayer money on privately-owned property.  The Merritts have been notified many months ago as to the replacement pumps needed to properly operate that lift station but have not been responsible in taking care of their property.  There have been several letters, meetings at City Hall, telephone communications to no avail.  It is very disappointing that they have put the businesses that are served by that lift station in peril of closing and more importantly putting our most valuable resource, Lake Chatuge, in danger.  The failing lift station serves only the area of the Sand Bar, Moondance complex, El Cancun, and Dogwood St area. The City has contacted EPD and they, in turn, have written a letter to the Merritts earlier this year informing them of the consequences of their irresponsibility.”

Mayor Ordiales stated that the solution to the problem includes the installation of proper pumps that would handle the volume of sewage flowing through it.

The Merritts expressed that they believe that a portion of a 2018 grant accepted by the City of Hiawassee should be used to remedy the situation.

Click to read City of Hiawassee receives $600,000 grant for wastewater improvement

Additionally, the Merritts stated that reverse pressure from the inoperative Roadrunner lift station has caused damage to the private sewer system, forcing repairs. In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to the EPD by the Merritt’s attorney, the couple’s legal counsel responded that the “unilateral decision of the City of Hiawassee to discontinue the use of and the bypass of the Roadrunner lift station” has harmed the Merritt’s system due to excessive reverse pressure on the system. “The City of Hiawassee has continuously charged a monthly sewer service bill to each property owner connected to and using the sanitary sewer extension,” the attorney added.

“If the system ceases to function properly there will be irreparable damage to the environment and businesses,” Dana Merritt said. “It will not only (destroy) several lift station pumps but also close businesses not limited to but including the jail, recreation center, Ridges Resort, Watercrest Condos, several restaurants, Cinema 6, and other private businesses.”

FYN intends to follow developments as they occur.

Feature Image: Sewer station in question, located near Sand Bar and Grille on State Highway 76, west of Hiawassee.

Hiawassee City Council passes Lake Chatuge erosion ordinance

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Lake Chatuge erosion

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council unanimously voted in favor of enacting an EPD anti-erosion and sediment ordinance Nov. 5 in an effort to protect Lake Chatuge. Western Regional Director Callie Moore of Mountain True – an environmental organization that merged with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition earlier this year – attended the city hall meeting in vocal support of the measure.

Having local authority means that the city of Hiawassee can issue local permits for erosion and sediment control, Moore explained. “But beyond that, you have a person who’s actually here to help people with erosion and sediment control. And because Towns County is not an issuing authority either, anyone around here who’s doing any kind of construction, if there was any problem with it, or they had any questions, or just to get the permit, they would have to apply to the state and the person who comes out here would have to come from Cartersville which is two hours, two and a half hours…

“The 2007 Lake Chatuge Watershed action plan – I can’t believe how long ago that was – had a list of recommendations for all kinds of stakeholders in the watershed, and local governments was one of them, and there was a whole list of local government action items – and then there were some specific ones for different cities, counties, entities, whatever in the watershed – and the last one that the city of Hiawassee has not done is the local sediment erosion control plan so this completes the checklist for protection of Lake Chatuge and it’s very exciting for me that this is happening.”

Patsy Owens

Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens at the Nov. 5 session.

Portions of the extensive ordinance reads as follows:

“No person shall conduct any land-disturbing activity within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Hiawassee
without first obtaining a permit from the City of Hiawassee Issuing Authority to perform such activity and providing a copy of Notice of Intent submitted to EPD, if applicable. The application for a permit shall be submitted to the City of Hiawassee and must include the applicant’s erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan with supporting data, as necessary.”

“If any person commences any land-disturbing activity requiring a land-disturbing permit as prescribed in this ordinance without first obtaining said permit, the person shall be subject to revocation of his business license, work permit or other authorization for the conduct of a business and associated work.”

“When a violation in the form of taking action without a permit, failure to maintain a stream buffer, or significant
amounts of sediment, as determined by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee, have been or are being discharged into state waters and where best management practices have not been properly designed, installed, and maintained, a stop-work order shall be issued by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee. All such stop-work orders shall be effective immediately upon issuance and shall be in effect until the necessary corrective action or mitigation has occurred.”

“Any person who violates any provisions of this ordinance, or any permit condition or limitation established pursuant to this ordinance, or who negligently or intentionally fails or refuses to comply with any final or emergency order of the Director issued as provided in this ordinance shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.00 per day.”

The newly-enacted ordinance was initially brought before Hiawassee City Council as “new business” on Sept. 23, 2019.

Feature Image:  Mountain True Western Regional Director Callie Moore

Hiawassee on track to enact erosion control ordinance

News
erosion

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An “Issuing Authority Ordinance” was listed as new business on the Sept. 23 agenda of Hiawassee City Council. The purpose of teh decree is to enact “sound conservation and engineering practices to prevent and minimize erosion and resultant sedimentation” within the city limits. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales described the mandate as a standard environmental Protection Division (EPD) ordinance, typically updated every five years.

“EPD mandates that whenever you have any type of construction, somebody comes out and checks it, and makes sure you’re not doing anything to harm the environment,” Mayor Ordiales explained, using “run-off” into Lake Chatuge as an example. “In the past we haven’t had anybody do it, so we had to sort of wait, and when somebody called and said, ‘Hey, there’s about 300 pounds of soot going into the lake, you might want to address it’ then we have to call EPD, and EPD would come out and do it. They have this ordinance in place, and we have our building inspector, Randy Day, that does this for us. He’s certified, he’s licensed, he’s insured, he’s ready to go. But since we’ve never had this, we have to put this ordinance in place for him to do it.”

Hiawassee Mayor

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales at the Sept. 23 city council meeting.

Portions of the extensive ordinance read as follows:

“No person shall conduct any land-disturbing activity within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Hiawassee
without first obtaining a permit from the City of Hiawassee Issuing Authority to perform such activity and providing a copy of Notice of Intent submitted to EPD, if applicable. The application for a permit shall be submitted to the City of Hiawassee and must include the applicant’s erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan with supporting data, as necessary.”

“If any person commences any land-disturbing activity requiring a land-disturbing permit as prescribed in this ordinance without first obtaining said permit, the person shall be subject to revocation of his business license, work permit or other authorization for the conduct of a business and associated work.”

“When a violation in the form of taking action without a permit, failure to maintain a stream buffer, or significant
amounts of sediment, as determined by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee, have been or are being discharged into state waters and where best management practices have not been properly designed, installed, and maintained, a stop work order shall be issued by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee. All such stop work orders shall be effective immediately upon issuance and shall be in effect until the necessary corrective action or mitigation has occurred.”

“Any person who violates any provisions of this ordinance, or any permit condition or limitation established pursuant to this ordinance, or who negligently or intentionally fails or refuses to comply with any final or emergency order of the Director issued as provided in this ordinance shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.00 per day.”

Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett questioned whether violation fines incurred would revert to the City of Hiawassee. Mayor Ordiales replied that it would be the case. The ordinance is expected to reach Hiawassee City Council for adoption Nov. 5, 2019.

 

Additional Towns County news

 

 

Fluoride vote expected to appear on 2020 ballot

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fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee water customers are expected to be given an option on the May 2020 primary ballot regarding the addition of fluoride. A petition opposing the addition of fluoride was recently circulated in the community, garnering enough signatures to place the decision on the ballot for both Hiawassee citizens and Towns County consumers of city water. According to Hiawassee City Hall, 35 citizens signed the circulated petition, enough to advance a referendum.

The City of Hiawassee received notice earlier this year from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that the mineral has not been an additive in the water supply for decades.

“During the routine inspection, it was discovered that the Hiawassee Water System did not add fluoride as a treatment process,” EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey wrote in an email. “According to the current ORC, Mr. Randall Thomas, Hiawassee WTP has not treated the water with fluoride in over 20 years. All potable water sources must be fluoridated, according to the Rules for Safe Drinking Water 391-3-5-.16 Fluoridation. Amended. In certain cases, some water systems had received a waiver from the state or there was a vote within the board of the water system as to not add fluoride to the drinking water.”

fluoride

Water fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to a public water supply, claimed to reduce tooth decay.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales responded, informing EPD that a vote to reject local fluoridation had taken place 36 years prior. Ordiales included a copy of city council minutes from 1983 as evidence.

FetchYourNews (FYN) reported public opposition to fluoridation after Fluoride Action Network published FYN’s initial report on the city’s intent. According to its mission statement, “Fluoride Action Network seeks to broaden awareness among citizens, scientists, and policymakers on the toxicity of fluoride compounds. FAN provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and remains vigilant in monitoring government agency actions that impact the public’s exposure to fluoride.”

Mayor Ordiales informed FYN last week that she anticipates Hiawassee City Council will move the matter to the 2020 ballot box during the Sept. 3 regular session.

 

FetchYourNews.com is a now news network that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray, Pickens, Rabun, Towns, Union and White counties as well as Cherokee and Clay counties in N.C. – FYNTV.com attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page

 

Fluoride may soon be added to Hiawassee water supply

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Fluoride may soon be added to the local water supply. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced the news during the March city council work session. The City of Hiawassee received notice from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that fluoride has not been an additive in the water supply in over 20 years.

“During the routine inspection, it was discovered that the Hiawassee Water System did not add fluoride as a treatment process,” EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Alisha Bailey wrote in an email obtained by FYN. “According to the current ORC, Mr. Randall Thomas, Hiawassee WTP has not treated the water with fluoride in over 20 years. All potable water sources must be fluoridated, according to the Rules for Safe Drinking Water 391-3-5-.16 Fluoridation. Amended. In certain cases, some water systems had received a waiver from the state or there was a vote within the board of the water system as to not add fluoride to the drinking water.”

Mayor Ordiales responded to EPD via email, including a copy of city council minutes from 1983, informing that a vote to reject local fluoridation had taken place 36 years prior. The mayor relayed during the council meeting, however, that the addition of fluoride to the water supply is a state mandate.

Upon objection from a citizen in attendance, Mayor Ordiales said the city would prefer not to fluoridate as to avoid the incurred expense.

Water fluoridation began in some parts of the United States in 1945, after scientists noted that people living in areas with higher water fluoride levels had fewer cavities. Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) recommended that public water supplies contain fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride is now used in the public drinking water supplied to about 3 out of 4 Americans. The decision to add fluoride to drinking water is made at the state or local level. The types of fluoride added to different water systems include fluorosilicic acid, sodium fluorosilicate, and sodium fluoride.

Fluoride is not required in all drinking water sources in the United States, but the levels of fluoride in water are regulated by several government agencies.

Starting in 1962, the United States Public Health Service (PHS) recommended that public water supplies contain between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L) of drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. This recommendation was updated in 2015 to a fluoride level of 0.7 mg/L, The change was made in part to account for the fact that people now get more fluoride from other sources (such as toothpaste) than in the past. Natural drinking water sources in the US have an average fluoride level of about 0.2 mg/L, although in some places it can be much higher.

Hiawassee receives negative feedback on water fluoridation

News
fluoride

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN previously reported the potential addition of fluoride to the local water supply through the City of Hiawassee, a requirement brought to the attention of Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in March.

Fluoride Action Network published FYN’s article on the city’s intent in the following days. According to its mission statement, “Fluoride Action Network (FAN) seeks to broaden awareness among citizens, scientists, and policymakers on the toxicity of fluoride compounds. FAN provides comprehensive and up-to-date information and remains vigilant in monitoring government agency actions that impact the public’s exposure to fluoride.”

Due to negative feedback on the additive, Mayor Ordiales contacted the EPD in order to learn what measures could be taken to reject fluoridation. According to the mayor, ten percent of the population signatures are needed on a petition to halt the addition. What is not clear, however, is whether the petition may contain both city and county residents, as the City of Hiawassee provides water for many county citizens. Mayor Ordiales said that she is awaiting a reply from the state on the matter.

According to the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), an organization that campaigns against the use of added fluoride, excess fluoride may contribute to the following health problems:

  • dental fluorosis
  • skeletal fluorosis
  • hyperparathyroidism, which involves uncontrolled secretion of parathyroid hormones
  • Neurological difficulties
  • acne and other skin problems
  • cardiovascular problems, including arteriosclerosis and arterial calcification, high blood pressure, myocardial damage, cardiac insufficiency, and heart failure
  • reproductive issues, such as lower fertility and early puberty in girls
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • conditions affecting the joints and bones, such as osteoarthritis, bone cancer, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • neurological problems, possibly leading to ADHD

 

Hiawassee extends sign moratorium; 3-2 split on ethics board designation

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council conducted their monthly regular session on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 4, approving several items discussed during the workshop meeting held the previous week. Several motions were unequivocally favored by the five council members with the exception of an ethics board committee member assignment.

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens preferred retainment of Susan Phillips, with Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet overriding the decision with a 3-2 vote in favor of Sue Scott. The joint ethics appointee, upon agreement of both city council and mayor, was granted to LaJean Turner.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales solely selected Leslie McPeak to remain on the ethics board committee. The three members were subsequently sworn-in at City Hall.

Hiawassee Patsy Owens

(L-R) Hiawassee Council Patsy Owens and Mayor Liz Ordiales at a Town Hall meeting in June

Furthermore, the council agreed to extend the city’s sign permit moratorium for an additional 60-days, affording the elected officials ample time to review changes, if any, that should be made to the existing ordinance.

Mayor Liz Ordiales listed a proposal on last week’s work agenda, petitioning council members to consider allowing a Main Street billboard owner to transform a dual-directional, double-tiered, static billboard into a digital, multi-message variant. Terry Poteete, the owner of the billboard in question, addressed the council upon referral of the mayor Nov. 26. Ordiales previously stated that her office was forced to deny the renovation request in February due to the current ordinance restrictions. Discussion on the particular billboard did not resume at Tuesday’s meeting, and it is unknown at the time of publication whether the seemingly council-contested topic will reoccur.

The city unanimously approved several additional matters, including an updated version of the city’s employee insurance plan with Blue Cross-Blue Shield, a contract related to the Watershed Protection Plan, eleven alcohol license renewals, and the second reading of the alcohol ordinance which accommodates the newly-passed “brunch bill”

In addition, Mayor Ordiales relayed that the City of Hiawassee ordinance listings are now available online through the city’s website.. “Every single ordinance we have is there,” Ordiales said. According to the mayor, the process of transferring the extensive data took approximately two years to complete.

Follow FYN for upcoming information regarding the University of Georgia-Carl Vinson Institute’s five-year plan for Hiawassee’s future, revealed in a town hall meeting following the adjournment of last night’s council session.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

City of Hiawassee set to comply with EPD watershed regulations

News
Hiawassee watershed

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is on track to approve a long-term contract with Engineering Management Inc. (EMI), in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), in accordance with the city’s Watershed Protection Plan (WPP).

Fletcher Holliday, Vice President of EMI, addressed Hiawassee City Council on Nov. 26.

EMI is currently completing Hiawassee’s WWP, tasked with long-term monitoring and reporting to EPD for several municipalities throughout North Georgia. For that reason, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained to city council members that the contract was not placed out for bid. Ordiales stated that testing will be conducted at the water plant in Hiawassee, rather than an off-site laboratory, in order to reduce the overall cost.

According to Holliday, EPD requested that the City of Hiawassee complete a partial quality assestment during the months of November and December, 2018, with full-monitoring to begin next year. The City of Hiawassee received EPD approval in late summer of 2018.

The funding for the 2018 partial project is expected to amount to $8678. Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote on the agenda item on Tuesday, Dec. 4, during the city’s regular session. If approved, the cost of the 2019 project was estimated at $16,000.

“The objective of the Long-Term monitoring is to monitor the water quality of the waters within the watershed protection area and determine whether or not they are improving or declining by utilizing the data from the original Watershed Assestment document as a baseline of watershed conditions,” Holliday wrote in a letter addressed to Ordiales in October.

Future water-quality monitoring will be conducted at four local sites, with one sampling gathered during what EMI refers to as “critical conditions,” where the waterway is experiencing low flow and high temperatures. Three dry weather, and one wet weather chemical samplings will be collected annually. E. coli and fecal coliform samples will be taken eight times per year regardless of weather conditions. A total of nearly two dozen tests will be administered and reported to EPD by EMI.

EMI states that significant activity discovered in the watershed will be noted. “This may include, but is not limited to, algal blooms, dry weather runoff, leaking pipes, oil spills, presence of animals, and odors, foam or algal blooms pertaining to the condition of the waterbody,” Holliday explained.

Monitoring reports will be submitted to EPD annually in June, according to EMI.

With No Relief, State Sets Drought Restrictions

News

Numbering the 24th week of severe drought in Northwest Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division has issued a statement regarding water restrictions and other drought responses in our area.

droughtresponse_levels1_2_map_11172016Most of Georgia is now under some form of Drought Fighting Restriction with the exception of some of our very southernmost counties. You can enlarge the map to see exactly which countries are affected by the increased Level 1 and Level 2 Restrictions.

These State set restrictions detail when you can water your outdoor plants and landscape based upon your address. A two-day restriction dictates “even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m.  Odd numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m.”

This announcement comes on the heels of the announcements that the smoke cover in our area is expected to continue throughout the near future as authorities continue to battle the raging wildfires across the South East, with the Rough Ridge Fire being the major blaze in North Georgia.

Along with the drought restrictions, many counties are also declaring burn bans for residents to aid in fighting fires and drought.

Check out the full Press Release below to see more about the restrictions and what activities are fully prohibited under the EPD’s Authority.

epdnewsrelease_p1

epdnewsrelease_p2

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