Atmore's high-quality H2O

Published 5:22 pm Friday, November 11, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
What do the workers with the Atmore Water Department really do?
Maybe one of the biggest misconceptions is regarding the number of employees that work to make our H2O clean and refreshing.
John Roley, who has worked with the Atmore Utilities Board for 13 years, serves as the city's water superintendent and has served in that capacity since 2000. He, along with grade two water operator Reddick English, make up the two-man crew that brings Atmore residents its award-winning water.
Roley explained that maintaining the city's wells is a complex job.
"People don't realize how many rules and regulations that we have to abide by when it comes the city's water," he said. "They don't realize how many tests and reports we have to provide to the state to ensure that we are running the system properly."
Roley sends Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM)-required tests to TTL Lab in Tuscaloosa where results are provided for the city and ADEM within two weeks. He then sends an additional copy of the results to ADEM and the process is repeated the next month. There are several other quarterly tests that have to be performed as well as a yearly test.
"Each year, an ADEM comes down to check all our paper work, test and sample to make sure everything's running right," Roley said.
The three main components added to tap water that has to be monitored on a regular basis is the PH, chlorine and fluoride levels. The Escambia County Health Department checks all of its municipality's fluoride levels each month.
The City of Atmore has four water tanks in town and two at Holman Prison, which total 1.8 million gallons of water in the air. Three of the tanks within the city hold 500,000 gallons of water and the other holds 300,000. The tanks are fed by several wells located in various locations throughout town.
"We've got seven wells in town and we maintain them and they average anywhere from 450 gallons per minute (GPM) to 1,050 GPM," Roley said. "We have to pull bacteria samples the first Thursday and the second Tuesday of each month; we pull a total of 12 in town and six at the prison."
The raw water wells pump water into 35,000-gallon deep wells underneath each treatment plant where it is then treated. Service pumps pump it into the huge holding tanks where it is then travels throughout the system via PVC and ductile pipes. Roley said that the city could run at full capacity even if a well or two goes down.
"If a well goes down, we've got to get it going. We've got maintenance crews that handle the leaks and we just maintain the plants, we keep it pumping and moving. We do testing and make sure the PH, chlorine and fluoride levels are correct."
Roley said the hardest part of his job is keeping up with the all the paperwork that is required. He said as long as all the wells and pumps are running properly, it's just routine work and maintenance.
"They do an outstanding job as exhibited by the awards of excellence that we have received," Utilities Board manager Tom Wolfe said. "This is one of the most important jobs in the city providing clean, potable water to the residents. As we found out during Ivan, if you haven't got water, then you haven't go much."
All of the Water Department's hard work has paid off over the years. The Alabama Rural Water Association presented Atmore with the award for the Best Tasting Water in the state in 2000 and 2003 and with the runner-up award in 2003. The department also won Water Plant of the Year Award four years in a row from 1999- 2002.
"We've got close to 12,000 customers and you always try to do a good job," Roley said. "The water's really important, I want to make sure it's safe for everyone."
In order to continue properly serving the residents of Atmore, the water department has been working Sunday nights for several weeks flushing fire hydrants.
"We do it twice a year. The main reason we do it is to make sure we get all the sediment out of the system and make sure all the city's fire hydrants are working properly."
Devon Reynolds and Jeremy Sharpe are the water department's meter readers. They also read the city's gas meters.

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