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County's top water users take stock
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In the wake of Gov. Sonny Perdue's order that 61 North Georgia counties cut their water consumption by 10 percent, many of the city of Covington's top water users have taken stock of their own water use to look for ways to cut back.

According to a list supplied by the city of Covington, the city's top water consumers are a mixture of industries, government agencies and apartment complexes.

The city's top water consumer, General Mills installed a wastewater treatment center in August 2006 on its Covington grounds.

According to Jeff Hanratty, corporate environmental engineer for General Mills, this measure helped Covington General Mills reduce its water consumption by 60 percent over the last 18 months.

Heidi Geller, spokesperson for General Mills said this measure has resulted in water savings of an estimated 100 million gallons of water or enough water to serve nearly 800 homes a year.

 "This obviously has been an effort that we've committed to," said Geller, adding that the company had partnered with the city of Covington for a number of years to look for ways to cut back on its water use.

According to an e-mail sent to The News by Geller, the wastewater treatment facility treats discharged water and purifies a portion of it for non-food contact use within the plant. This process allows the plant to reuse as much as 250,000 gallons of water on dust removal and in the cooling tower.

"Aside from saving the company money in municipal water and sewer fees, this project eliminated the need for the city of Covington to expand their water and wastewater utilities," wrote Geller.

Hanratty said General Mills was committed to cutting its consumption levels in Covington by 10 percent since this period one year ago and believes the company might already be there.

Another top water consumer in the city, Fibervision, a company that manufactures synthetic fibers, has also taken steps to reduce its water consumption.

Scott Powell, plant manager of Fibervision, said the company has in the past month switched some of its cooling towers to run on well water instead of water drawn from the county's reservoirs.

In addition, Powell said the company has for the past year lowered the amount of cooling air it runs inside the plant. While this measure has caused some physical discomfort for employees within the plant, Powell said they understand the reason for it.

With the changing of the seasons, Powell said the lower temperatures have also allowed the company to use less water in its coolant towers.

"A lot of our water is evaporated and is used to cool systems," Powell said. "Just by the changing of the season our water usage is down 40 percent since August. If you look at a chart of our water usage, it's kind of like a smile with winter being in the middle."

According to Powell, during this time of year Fibervision typically uses 750,000 gallons of water per day.

"We strive to be good citizens," Powell said of the company's efforts to lower its water consumption. "Most of the folks that work here are from around here so it's certainly in our best interests to do all that we can."

The city's fourth largest water consumer, Newton Medical Center has completely ceased watering its outdoor landscape in the wake of Perdue's order said Sharon Barbour, spokesperson for the hospital.

In addition Barbour said the hospital expects to use less water in its coolant towers this winter on account of the cold weather.

Billy Bouchillon, public works director for the city of Covington, said the city has installed a reuse system on its own wastewater treatment facility which he estimates will save the city 600,000 gallons of water a month.

"We're taking waste water that's been treated and using it in some processing equipment," Bouchillon said. "Some of the water is just diverted back into the plant. It's stuff that's not getting back into the system."

Bouchillon said some of the larger water users whom he has spoken with have indicated that they have installed low-flow faucets and low-flow toilets in their bathrooms.

Bouchillon also said the city is issuing warnings to houses with obvious water leaks that they have five to seven days to fix their water leak before the city will turn off their water.

"It's just one of the things we're doing to meet that extra 10 percent that the governor wants," Bouchillon said.