- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

PIKEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Residents of northwest Bledsoe County say their drinking water has drawn dozens of violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and they can’t get officials to put a permanent fix in place.

Compounding their frustration is the fact that the nearby Bledsoe County Correctional Complex is getting clean water from the city of Pikeville.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/1sKsxWM) the Fall Creek Falls Utility District actually gets its water from an old water treatment plant on the prison property. The prison on longer uses that water, but it still goes to about 1,650 customers, including Fall Creek Falls State Park.

For years, the water from that plant, which is operated by the Department of Correction, has shown elevated levels of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, two byproducts of drinking water disinfection.

“Each one of these is a cancer-causing agent and causes liver and central nervous system issues,” said county resident Charles Wagner. He is a retired engineer who has collected a decade’s worth of test results on the water.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials say recent work at the plant has raised water quality to acceptable standards.

TDEC spokeswoman Kelly Brockman said in an email that based on a recent survey, “the division did not see anything to indicate the water was not safe for human consumption.” But she said other improvements, like safety equipment related to the chlorine used to disinfect the water, still should be made.

Tennessee Clean Water Network attorney Stephanie Matheny said more needs to be done.

“Residents have been receiving notices of exceedances for many years,” Matheny said. “It’s well past time for a permanent fix, not just interim measures, to this serious public health problem.”

Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier is a Fall Creek Falls Utility District customer. He said he hopes the recent improvements translate into long-lasting water quality, but he’s not yet convinced that’s the case.

“When my granddaughter is here with me, she drinks bottled water,” he said.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

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