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Walthourville in hot water over water use
A sign on city hall this week said it all. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is cracking down on the city of Walthourville for its water use.
Walthourville Mayor Henry Frasier recently received a letter from EDP officials warning the city could face harsh penalties if it continues to go over its withdrawal limit of five million gallons of water a day.
“We could be fined today or tomorrow because we’re way over,” Frasier said during a recent city council meeting. “It’s just the mercy they’re giving us that they haven’t fined us yet. They’re hoping that we will be able to get out of this.”
City Clerk Juanita Johnson said Walthourville has been withdrawing about 13 million gallons of water each day.
While some of the increased use is a result of the city’s growth in recent years, councilmember Patricia Green said the main source of the problem is because residents are ignoring the city’s restriction on outside water use.
“You got a lot of people washing their cars and watering their grass,” Green said. “And they know they’re not supposed to do that. They know.”
City officials started the ban on outside water use in December 2005 in response to previous years of overuse warnings from the EPD. But as the city has continued to overdraw, the department has gone from simply giving multiple warnings to following stricter penalty guidelines.
Walthourville has already been paid a $5,000 fine. The next penalty charge could be in the $10,000 range.
With the possibility of another fine and the summer months quickly approaching, Green said the city might have to take a tougher approach with residents.
“We’re going to have to start enforcing the $250 fine for using your water outside,” Green said. “It’ll only take one or two people (to be cited) for people to listen and see that we’re serious.”
Green said future penalties charged to the city could also mean higher monthly water bills — an idea that has already caused much chagrin among Walthourville residents — to offset the city’s costs.
As for the EPD increasing Walthourville’s water withdrawal level to match the city’s current needs, Frasier said that would be dependent upon the city coming into current compliance limits.
“That has a lot to do with the increasing of our permit,” the mayor said. “If we can get normal, then they’ll be nice and increase our permit.”
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