When Mayor Marks and I get together every two weeks for his interview, often we spend time thinking about and discussing the things for which we are grateful. The Mayor is just back from the 66th annual American Water Works Association (AWWA) conference which was held in Memphis, and he is grateful, both for having had the chance to learn about what is involved in producing our water, as well as the people that are “on the wall” distributing and keeping watch over our water. The AWWA is the largest organization of folks associated with producing safe, clean, affordable water for cities and municipalities in America, and has over 50,000 members. They include techs, scientists, operators, administrators, and all who are involved in a gigantic undertaking that we often take for granted. Mayor Marks was accompanied by Councilman Jimmie Gill, John Stockton, and others from our water department. This was a regional convention, being attended by water workers and city governments from Alabama and Mississippi, and representing about 4,000 local utility companies.
“We take water seriously,” he told me, “and we always have, but now I understand much more about what is involved in keeping Athens supplied with an abundance of good water.” He went on to tell me some of the things he learned. “John (Stockton) certifies his employees, and they have to know how to deal with everything from chlorine levels, corrosion in pipes, and making watersheds.” He continued, “But the most critical thing is that there is no contamination.” Contamination can come from backflow as well as sewage seeping in to the supply. “Our water department works hard, and they are one of the wide range of services supplied by the City of Athens to its citizens. But, people need to understand that we have a whole system of 100 year old pipes under our city, and they are going to need to be replaced soon.”
On an average day in Athens, we go through about 4.5 million gallons of water, and have the capacity at present to produce up to 13.5 million per day. Given how we are growing, that will hold us for awhile, but we have to prepare as a city for the fact that the attractiveness of our town is drawing people from all over the country, and while growth may be uncomfortable, it is one of the things that proves that our city is not just a city, it is a community, and a great place to live.
I asked him how our water department interacts with those who have their own water supply, pump or otherwise. “We will come and test for safety, make suggestions and act in an advisory capacity,” he said. “We are dedicated to having safe drinking water for everybody,” he added.
We then chatted about the upcoming events in Athens, i.e. Storytellers’ and the Korean War memorial event that is being produced by Jackie Greenhaw, and is going to be held this Sunday, October 20th at the Senior Center. And then it was time to go, but not before we prayed, always my favorite part. Water and worship are blessings indeed, and they are some of the things that make Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner