When water regulations serve their purpose

Johnson City Press • Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 11:45 AM

It’s common these days to hear people rail against those blasted government regulations. Critics complain they are stifling or nonsensical.

Just another layer of needless bureaucracy? Maybe, sometimes, but more often they are essential safeguards of the public’s health and safety. Take the case of a citation issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to a Stoney Creek community public water system last month.

State officials said two tests of the Dry Hollow Water Association’s gravity-fed, surface water system found E. coli and other contaminants that could be dangerous to the people living in the 39 homes served by the utility. E. coli is caused by exposure to water contaminated by animal or human waste.

Most of the hundreds of types of E. coli are relatively harmless, but a few strains of the bacteria can cause serious and sometimes deadly infections.

Once the E. coli was identified in the Dry Hollow Water Association’s supply, the state ordered boil water notices to be sent to residents. Press staff writer Zach Vance said this is the second time state officials have intervened in the water system’s operations.

In 1987, the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board entered an agreement with the Dry Hollow Water Association to discontinue operating its water system by March 15, 1987, and if it continued operating as a public water system after April 1, 1987, a civil penalty would be issued.

At that time the system served 32 connections, defined under state law as a public water supply, which has to abide by state regulations. A private water supply, abiding by no regulations, is defined as serving one to 14 service connections.

It was the state’s recent oversight of the water system, and those pesky regulations, that perhaps prevented trouble in Stoney Creek.

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