It’s been nearly a year and half since the city of Rome filed a lawsuit against textile manufacturers up the Oostanaula River and its tributaries for dumping toxic chemical compounds, PFAS, in the waterways.
Now Rome is conducting a pilot study to determine the best, and most economical means of treating the water to remove the chemicals.
Perfluorinated chemicals are part of a group of persistent industrial chemicals that have been dubbed “forever chemicals.” They’re used for nonstick coatings on cookware as well as carpets and other items for their ability to repel oil and water.
DuPont, Shaw Industries, 3M and others were named as defendants in the case, which is still in its preliminary discovery phase in the Floyd Superior Court.
Rome Water and Sewer Department Director Mike Hackett explained to members of the Rome Water and Sewer committee that the project can be broken down into two parts. One looks at sedimentation technologies, while the other looks at mitigation technologies.
The timing of the study is important to be able to learn the impact of the technologies on different water temperatures, and heavy rains and floods which stir up sediment.
“We’re looking at many moving parts in trying to narrow it down to one single solution,” Boyd said.
The city is spending close to half a million dollars out of its water and sewer budget to fund the study and hopes that it will be able to recoup that money — and hopefully more — at the conclusion of the lawsuit.
City Attorney Andy Davis told the full commission during a planning retreat last month that the Oostanaula River is critical to the future of the city.
“Not being able to use the Oostanaula limits the potential for the growth of our community,” he said.
Since the lawsuit was filed in the fall of 2019, the city has been withdrawing the majority of its water from the Etowah River, which has just one intake line. The Oostanaula pump station in Ridge Ferry Park has three.
The city is in the process of engineering an expanded Etowah pump station to be able to pull as much as 30 million gallons per day to account for future growth.
That project, which could cost between $8 million and $12 million, does include relocation of a large 30-inch sewer interceptor which will cost close to a million alone.