South Grady residents complain about farmer’s new well

CORRECTED VERSION: Please note this report has been corrected to properly identify the farmer who owns the irrigation well questioned by residents of south Grady County. The farmer is Steve Perkins and NOT Sammie Perkins as previously reported. The Messenger was provided incorrect information from county officials and we regret the error, but gladly correct it online and in print in our September 14 edition.
An irrigation well dug earlier this year by a large local farmer is allegedly causing problems for drinking water well owners nearby.
A delegation of south Grady County residents appeared before the Grady County Commission Friday morning to discuss what could be done about their wells going dry, having to be dug deeper, and contractors charging one person one price and another a different price for the same work.
Vivian Harris and Geraldine Harris both spoke out on the issue to county commissioners during last week’s meeting.
According to county officials, Steve Perkins, who farms in south Grady County, had the well dug earlier this year and they say he has been pumping water from the well to fill an irrigation pond that has been located on Lake Douglas Road for many years.
Due to the drought conditions, the pond has been drying up and county officials say the well was put in to provide sufficient water for the farmer’s pivot irrigation system.
Geraldine Harris questioned how an individual could be allowed to “pump hundreds of thousands of gallons” to irrigate and fill a pond when “we are unable to take a bath in our own homes and having to haul water in to drink. If you can’t do anything, tell us where to go.”
Vivian Harris said that residents in the area of Lake Douglas Road began to lose water around July 17 when 15 homes and two churches were without water.
“I personally paid $1,250 on Aug. 25 to get water and by Aug. 28, the well was dry again,” Vivian Harris told commissioners.
Citizens of the south Grady County area have contacted local, state and federal authorities concerning their water woes.
Vivian Harris claims that when Perkins ceased pumping for a time, the water situation returned to normal, only to decline again once the irrigation well was put back into service.
“We are asking the commissioners to give us direction or guidance,” Vivian Harris said.
County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley explained that the county does not regulate wells or well drillers and suggested they continue their efforts to contact the appropriate authorities and if they choose to seek private legal counsel.
Code Enforcement Officer Larry Ivy reported that officials with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division were scheduled to be in Grady County this week to investigate the situation.
Vice Chairman Elwyn Childs asked if the farmer was limited to how much and how often he could pump from the irrigation well.
Ivy said he was not certain and that the state does not have all of the data on the well from the well driller.
“They (the state) don’t even know how deep the well is,” Ivy said.
Chairman Charles Norton said the situation is not limited to south Grady County.
“There is an issue countywide with people having to drop their wells and pumps. I wish there was something we could do or more we could tell you, but there isn’t,” the commission chairman said.
Vice Chairman Childs agreed and said that recently eight to nine wells in the Ridge Road area were experiencing the same problems.
Ronald Sellers, a resident of northeast Grady County, spoke out and said the same was true in the northeast section of the county.
University of Georgia Extension Agent Don Clark says drinking water wells would not likely suffer any problems if not for the severe drought conditions being experienced here.
“From Aug. 1, 2010, until April 1, 2011, when we normally get our big rains, we didn’t get but two rains of more than a half inch. The long-range forecast is for a warmer and drier winter than normal. After what we’ve experienced in the last 14 months and if this winter is drier than normal, it’s going to really get serious,” Clark said.
“The state of Georgia has said that first priority is for drinking water wells. Agriculture has second priority and industry is third. The problem is, we really haven’t had the significant rain events we need to recharge the subsoil moisture,” Clark said.
While EPD permits irrigation wells, Public Health permits drinking water wells.
District Environmental Health Director Dewayne Tanner says the drinking water wells that are drying up, not just in this district, but statewide, are being caused by the severe drought.
“A lot of the wells we are seeing dry up are shallow wells and not deep wells,” Tanner said.
According to the District Health official, a well under 100 feet deep is consider a shallow well.
District Health officials do not have records on how many wells have been lowered, but the number of new drinking water wells permitted in Grady County is up from last year.
Environmental Health Specialist Shane Huey with the Grady County Health Department says between January and August of this year 47 well permits had been issued, compared to 35 during the same time period last year.
Although District Health officials to not have records on the number of pumps that have been lowered in the county, Environmental Health Specialist Clarcia Avery says there have been “several” in all areas of the county.

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