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Fire Chief Ricky Jordan fills a jug of water for Pat Cobb, 1268 Deer Run Ridge. Big Canoe
Fire Department put an engine at the top of Deer Run Ridge Friday, Nov. 11 for people
still without water in their houses to be able to get water close to home.

After days without water, residents question management of water company

By Laura Link

Updated Nov. 14

A large number of Big Canoe residences experienced a prolonged water outage from Nov. 5 – 13 creating not only inconvenience but anger and frustration.

The reason the Big Canoe Utilities Co. came under fire for the major water outage was a sensor not fully installed on a new station in 2014. At a Town Hall Meeting held Thursday, Nov. 10, property owners listened to and questioned Arnold Ellison, vice president and consultant of the Big Canoe Water Co.

Ellison explained there are two sensors – one for low pressure and a run dry sensor. The run dry sensor was the culprit because the contracting company installing the new station only installed this sensor halfway; the error wasn’t detected because the sensor appeared to be fully installed to the computer monitoring system.

At 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at the treatment plant, an employee of the water company detected a break in a main. Ellison said property owners are good about telling the water company about breaks they see but at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning the break was not seen at the three-way stop at Wilderness Parkway and Buck Skull Road. When the break was located, technicians called in from outside Big Canoe, had it repaired by 11 a.m. Then it was determined that a water station was not pumping. By Saturday evening the pump casing had been taken apart revealing metal bearing melted onto the shaft. The damaged goods were taken off to be machine repaired at 4 a.m. Sunday and reinstalled at 8 p.m. with the pump then running.

Water Problems Meeting 031

Arnold Ellison holds the water company's "bible" that he says is available for those who 
express mistrust in the water company and would like to examine it. 

Paid extra for the sensor culprit

Ellison said the water company paid extra in 2014 when the $16,000 pumping station was bought and installed to have a run dry sensor. When examined, workers found the contractor doing the installation of the pump never connected this sensor although the wiring had been installed. Ellison said the inspectors certified and signed off on the pump running correctly. The issue for fraud by the contractor and supplier are being pursued by legal means, according to Ellison, to recover costs and damages.

Water Problems Meeting 012   Water Problems Meeting 042

Those at the Town Hall Meeting in a show of hands indicated the property owners were divided about half with water
and half no water. PHOTOS BY JIM FRANCIS

Tree roots grow around pipes

While water lines continue to break elsewhere on the property, some of these breaks are caused by tree roots that grow around the water lines, squeezing the pipes until they break. Ellison showed the meeting attendees a piece of tree root where the pipe had been imbedded. “These are the things we deal with daily. Water systems nationwide are experiencing this same thing,” he added.

When the meeting was opened to questions from property owners, one asked why water lines were not being replaced. “Over the last three years we have replaced three water mains. We are going to be changing out pipes,” he said.

The reason leaks keep appearing, Ellison said, is the method used to install them when Big Canoe was first developed. It was hard to blast through rock so the pipes were laid over the rock base without placing a cushioning layer of sand between the rock and pipe. Over the years the water fluctuation in the pipes moving with pressure and scraping against the rock wore holes in the pipe and split, Ellison explained.

Several property owners chastised the water company for not having an emergency plan in place for just such water outages. Ellison was asked several times why tanker trucks filled with water were not brought to the top of Sanderlin to fill tanks. He gave no answer but afterwards, when pushed for an answer, he said that could have been done earlier but wasn’t. Ellison said he expected to have every home with water sometime Thursday.

Water Problems Meeting 035
Water Co. Consultant Arnold Ellison holds a tree root with his fingers in the place the water
line was strangled by the tree growth. PHOTO BY JIM FRANCIS

“You gotta have a plan”

“Today you have a failure,” one disgruntled man said. “You gotta have a plan,” brought nods of agreement from the audience. The water department was criticized for not supplying gallon jugs and bottles of drinking water to those who have nearly lost count of the days of water outage, mainly the upper heights of Sanderlin.

Ellison told the meeting bottled water was at the water company office for those that needed it. That brought frustrated loud voices talking at once saying the community had not been told of this by the water company or the POA.

Fire department offers jugs of water

Thursday morning Fire Station 3 in the Village was filling gallon jugs of water and putting them outside the station for anyone to pick up. Again, this fact had not been communicated to the community. Bottles of drinking water were placed on the front porch of the water department building for those needing water. Finally, for the last ones to have their water restored the Big Canoe Fire Dept. took a truck of water and bottles of water to the Deer Run Ridge extension for resident pickup.

Both Dawson and Pickens counties are aware of the fire danger in Big Canoe with no water in hydrants in large swaths of land. They are standing by with their trucks loaded with water and the Big Canoe Fire Dept. has three trucks filled to capacity at Station 3. Should there be another house fire during this drought period, Lt. Chip Rice, on duty, said about all they can do is try to keep a fire from spreading.















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