If you were to ask an inhabitant of Ludowici what their biggest complaint is it might be about their drinking water. Lately there have been complaints about the water quality in Ludowici and the outskirts of the city. On Sound Off and on social media residents have voiced concerns that the water they receive has an odor and a dark color to it. The Coastal Courier asked James Fuller Jr., the mayor of Ludowici, if he was aware of the complaints. “Yes we are aware. It’s been an ongoing thing,” Fuller said. “The Sound Off article that hit the paper last week was shocking to me because we haven’t had a physical complaint out here in about a month and a half.”
While speaking to the Courier, Fuller offered an explanation as to why the city water has a dark color and odor to it. “We realized earlier this year that we have an issue. What we have is roughly five miles worth of galvanized water lines within the city. Those lines were installed in 1951. So it’s time for an upgrade. There was a slight update in the 1960s, but it just added new lines. It didn’t do anything about what was already in the ground. So these lines get rusty and they corrode up and you must consider that the main well that we use in town has been there for roughly 40 years. What started all of this is that we had a chlorinator. The chlorine is put in the water when it’s pumped in the system it has a smell. The smell is not going to hurt anyone. So if somebody lives at the end of the line and they use very little water, they will have a smell and you can’t stop that. All that is water is sitting there. So they will turn their water on and let it run for a minute and the smell will go away.”
Fuller insists the water is safe to drink because it has been tested. “I have had this water independently tested. I’ve even contracted the people who run Fort Stewart’s water system to run ours and do all the reporting to EPD. So I know that the water quality is okay. But what happens when the chlorinator breaks is that you fix this issue you get the chlorine in the water, but in the meantime you got gallons of water in your system that is unchlorinated water. So you have to flush fire hydrants in order to get the unchlorinated water out.
“When you do this it shakes those galvanized lines in the ground that corrosion in the lines breaks loose and it floats and it’s got to go somewhere. So it goes in people’s toilets, washing machines, sinks that’s where the discoloration in the water comes from in those lines. Well, a little over a month ago we replaced the entire chlorination units on both wells. It’s roughly $15,000 worth of work we had done. Since we replaced those units we have not had a chlorine issue since that date that I’m aware of. So that part of it is fixed. The only way to fix discoloration of the water is to replace all of these lines in our system.”
Fuller continued with future plans to fix the issue. “We are in the process of obtaining a USDA loan to replace all these lines in our system that is a roughly a $4-$6 million dollar project. And if we are fortunate enough to obtain this loan, that money should come in October this year. I would say by the spring, because these things move slowly. It’s like a grant process; you have to go through engineers, administrators to let this money out to contractors. So I figure the spring we will probably start seeing work being done to permanently rectify the issue of the discolored water.”
Mayor Fuller also mentioned that the local schools are on the same water system. “Each school has a dedicated line because they need more pressure than what we usually supply to the lines. They should never see any discolored water,” Fuller said.
The city supplies water to roughly 750 customers. Fuller understands that the city is continuing to grow and that he must meet the demands of the people. “The timing for us to borrow this money is great right now because the USDA loan goes by your median income and the number of customers that you have on the water books right now. So if we wait a year then the census is going to change our population, our growth, amount of customers, and the amount that we have to pay back would increase. So we are trying to do everything that we can do to get the money this year so we can start on this. We have to redo the water system because we have growth coming. Growth is here and if we don’t get ahead of the growth then we’re going to get run over.
“While the lines are being replaced residents are still able to drink the water currently running from their sink,” he said. “We are working hard and fast to alleviate the problem but this water is safe to drink there is nothing wrong with it.”