Augusta Utilities blasts article on lead testing

Augusta, Georgia Seal graphic
Augusta, Georgia Seal graphic

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – For Augusta’s water works it was more press, but it wasn’t the good kind.

“We’re going to have to do those things in a timely manner that we are supposed to do. I’m not going to say that the Utilities Department is flawed in that particular area. That’s something we need to look at,” says Commissioner Bill Lockett.

What city leaders have looked at is an article in The Guardian magazine where Augusta is listed as one of 33 cities not sticking to EPA guidelines for testing for lead.

“Completely inaccurate about that. We send out with the sample bottles the bar coded sheet that the state sends us and it has an instruction on there that they’ve latched onto that they interpret to mean that were telling the customer to sample incorrectly that’s not true at all,” says Utilities Department Director Tom Wiedmeier.

The instruction forms tells customers to “gently open taps” to fill water sample bottles the EPA recommended against using this practice in February because it could reduce lead levels in samples. But city officials say that instruction is issued by the state not Augusta, and the last time the city sample for lead was 2013.

“We haven’t collected a lead sample since this new guidance came out, so we’re not trying to scam the system,” says Wiedmeier.

With the Flint, Michigan lead water crisis, departments are facing increased scrutiny. Augusta’s system has had its share of issues but some feel the issue raised in this article isn’t one of them.

“We got an email from Tom Wiedmeier stating ‘I’m not worried about that at all,’” says Commissioner Sean Frantom.

Wiedmeier says the city is due for lead tests on about 50 homes shortly but he says the state is expected to tell Augusta to hold off until new instructions meeting the 2016 EPA guidelines are placed on the sampling forms.

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