Saturday, May 31, 2008

Homeowners, Renters and Businesses are Urged to Prepare for Disaster Before it Strikes

As several states recover from the destruction and loss of life caused by recent tornadoes, floods and wildfires, and other areas prepare for the beginning of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season on June 1, the U.S. Small Business Administration is urging the public to develop an emergency plan before the disaster hits.

“Every threat, from wind storms, floods and wildfires, to power outages and computer system failures, reminds us to be proactive when it comes to planning strategies to survive a disaster and recover quickly,” said SBA Deputy Administrator Jovita Carranza. “The catastrophic events of the last few years demonstrate the need for preparedness at the individual level, to diminish the risk to life and property.”

The SBA stands ready to help communities recover in the aftermath of a disaster. Following the Gulf Coast Hurricanes of 2005, the SBA approved more than $5 billion in disaster loans to 102,700 homeowners and renters in the region. Businesses in the area were approved for 16,780 business disaster loans worth $1.6 billion.

During the past two years the SBA has been preparing to respond to major disasters by reengineering the Disaster Assistance program with a significant focus on customer service, direct accountability, and new technologies that have quadrupled processing capacity. In June 2007 the agency completed its Disaster Recovery Plan, which includes procedures to better handle future catastrophic disasters, and has begun testing this plan through simulations conducted with outside experts.

Disasters strike in all seasons. Since Oct. 1, the SBA has responded to 137 declared disasters, including those for drought. Of those, 118 are open at present.

Disaster preparedness for homes and businesses should include:

A solid emergency response plan. Find evacuation routes from the home or business and establish meeting places. Make sure everyone understands the plan beforehand. Keep emergency phone numbers handy. Business owners should designate a contact person to communicate with other employees, customers and vendors. Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to be your “post-disaster” point of contact – a person to call to provide information on your safety and whereabouts.

Adequate insurance. Disaster preparedness begins with having adequate insurance coverage—at least enough to rebuild your home or business. Homeowners and business owners should review their policies to see what is or isn’t covered. Businesses should consider “business interruption insurance,” which helps cover operating costs during the post-disaster shutdown period. Flood insurance is essential. To find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program, visit the Web site at

Making copies of important records. It’s a good idea to back up vital records and information saved on computer hard drives, and store that information at a distant offsite location. Computer data should be backed up routinely. Copies of important documents and CDs should be stored in fire-proof safe deposit boxes offsite.

Protection of windows, doors and roofing. Installing impact-resistant window and door systems, or simple plywood shutters installed before the storm hits can enhance their ability to resist impacts from wind-borne debris. Hire a professional to evaluate your roof to make sure it can weather a major storm.

A “Disaster Survival Kit.” The kit should include a flashlight, a portable radio, extra batteries, a first-aid kit, non-perishable packaged and canned food, bottled water, a basic tool kit, plastic bags, cash, and a disposable camera to take pictures of the property damage after the storm.

More preparedness tips for businesses, homeowners and renters are available on the SBA’s Web site at The Institute for Business and Home Safety ( ) also has information on protecting your home or business. For learn more about developing an emergency plan, visit or call 1-800-BE-READY to receive free materials.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Well owners responsible for their water safety

When Frank Hancock was called to the house of a mother with two children sickened by E. coli bacteria, he discovered that the water from their well was the source. He found other wells in the county with problems, too.

“I don’t think our experience is different than any other county,” said Hancock, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Henry County. “People are not maintaining their wells. They don’t think about where their water is coming from.”

Most people don’t know that they must maintain their wells, he said.

“If the county water supply has a problem, there are probably 100 people working on it,” he said. “If your well has a problem and you aren’t working on it, no one is.”

To get the word out in his county, Hancock organized a well water maintenance seminar.

“We wanted to let people know the risks of not taking care of their well,” he said, “and tell them, 'this is your responsibility.'”

“You will find low levels of bacteria in most wells,” said Parshall Bush, a residue chemist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “There are different levels of contamination.”

Since 2003, 10 percent of bored wells tested at the UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratory contain E. coli. More than half failed to meet Environmental Protection Agency municipal drinking water standards. One out of three showed bacteria levels high enough to cause illness. Most water samples sent to the lab come from north Georgia.

Drilled wells, typically deeper than 100 feet, are less likely to be contaminated by bacteria. Wells less than 60 feet deep are more likely than deeper wells to be contaminated. Soil above the water table doesn’t filter enough bacteria from shallow groundwater.

If a septic system is too close to the well or not working properly, Bush said, it can be the bacteria source.

“Contamination can occur if the well was improperly constructed or if the well is located in a depression that collects surface runoff,” Bush said.

The UGA well-cam was used to checkout problem wells in Henry County.

“We saw cracks in well liners, tree roots so numerous in wells that the camera couldn’t pass by, wells with spider webs down to the 14-foot level,” Hancock said. “We also saw well houses totally contaminated with gas, pesticides, fertilizer and rats.”

Nitrate, lead and copper are the primary contaminates found in Georgia well water, said Bush.

“Nitrate contamination is the result of fertilizer application or animal operations and copper and lead can be attributed to corrosive pipes.”

All pesticides and herbicides should be kept away from wells and other sources of drinking water, he said.

“We always say, ‘If you don’t want to drink it, keep it away from the well,’” Bush said.

Abandoned wells should be filled in.

Well testing can be done through local UGA Extension offices. A bacterial test is available for $35. An expanded water test, which tests for minerals, soluble salts and alkalinity, is $45. Call 1-800-ASK-UGA1 for more information.

Once a water sample is tested, the well owner will get a report showing results that are above EPA's primary and secondary maximum levels. If a water sample tests positive for bacteria, a chlorination treatment is recommended.

by April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Isakson Praises Senate Committee Approval of Legislation to Develop Recommendations for Comprehensive Water Strategy

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval of legislation to study and develop recommendations for a comprehensive water strategy.

“As Georgia experiences the worst drought in over 100 years, it has become clear to me that the United States would benefit greatly from a national strategy for drinking water,” said Isakson, who is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The legislation will give states the tools they need to create water policies that reflect 21st century demand and usage.”

Isakson introduced the Twenty-First Century Water Commission Act of 2008, S.2728, on March 6, 2008. The bill would establish the Twenty-First Century Water Commission, which seeks to develop strategies to increase water supplies and improve the availability, reliability and quality of freshwater resources.

The commission would study current water management programs of federal, interstate, state and local agencies and private-sector entities as well as consult with representatives of such agencies and entities to develop recommendations for a comprehensive national water strategy.

The strategy developed by the commission would be required to identify incentives intended to ensure an adequate and dependable water supply to meet U.S. needs for the next 50 years and suggest strategies that avoid increased mandates on state and local governments, considering all available technologies. The commission would also be required to suggest financing options.

U.S. Representative John Linder, R-Ga., has introduced similar legislation in the House. Linder’s legislation was approved by the House during the last two Congresses but this was the first time it has been considered by the Senate.

“I applaud my colleague, Senator Isakson, for taking up this measure in the Senate and helping to get it passed in today’s Committee markup,” Linder said. “We need to ensure a sufficient and dependable water supply for our nation for years to come. We need to begin to think in creative new ways in order to highlight our nation's future water supply needs. The Twenty First Century Water Commission will give the states the tools to do that.”

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Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Drought lingers across north Georgia

Winter and early spring rains have helped, but north Georgia remains in severe to extreme drought. The northern coastal plain is abnormally dry. Moisture conditions for the southern coastal plain along the Florida border are near normal for now.

From Oct. 1 through the middle of April is considered Georgia’s moisture recharge period, when the state typically gets more rain than moisture loses due to evaporation and plant use.

North Georgia didn’t receive enough rain to fully recharge soil moisture, groundwater, streams or reservoirs. Since Oct. 1, north Georgia has received only 70 percent to 80 percent of normal rainfall.

Most north Geogia streams are at or near record low flows for late April. At many locations, only 1986 and 2007 stream flows were lower than they are now.

Both Lake Lanier and Lake Hartwell are well below desired levels for late April. Smaller reservoirs are near full, though. However, with the extremely low stream flows across north Georgia, these smaller reservoirs must be managed well because drought conditions are expected to continue.

From the northern coastal plain to the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, soil moisture is abnormally low. It is especially low across the northern piedmont and into the mountains. In northwest Georgia, soil moisture is extremely low.

Soil moisture in south-central and southeast Georgia is near normal for late April. But levels are already decreasing. In southwest Georgia, most flows are low for late April and decreasing. The development of drought conditions over the next month is possible.

Late April through October, moisture loss from soils is usually greater than rainfall. If Georgia has normal weather this summer, we can expect the soils to continue to dry out and groundwater levels, stream flows and reservoir levels to drop across the entire state.

Updated drought information is available at The state drought Web site includes information on how to deal with the drought.

The University of Georgia statewide network of automated weather stations can be found at

By David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

David Stooksbury is the state climatologist, a professor of engineering and graduate coordinator for atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Governor Perdue Announces $19.5 Million in Loans and Grants to Finance Water and Sewer System Infrastructure Improvements

Today Governor Sonny Perdue announced the approval of four Georgia Fund commitments totaling $2,749,923, one Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) commitment totaling $1,750,000 and one Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) commitment totaling $15,000,000. The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority’s (GEFA) Board of Directors approved the loans and grants to help finance water and sewer infrastructure projects for the Madison County Industrial Development & Building Authority, Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, and the cities of Cornelia, Millen, Statham and West Point.

“Infrastructure improvements increase the quality of life for Georgia citizens, and they help cities and counties create jobs and promote economic development,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “I’m pleased these investments are being made in water and sewer infrastructure.”

“GEFA’s programs are a tangible commitment by Governor Perdue and the General Assembly to assist local governments across the state with their efforts to provide clean water and sewer improvements,” said Chris Clark. “In addition to the public’s health and safety, these projects are critical to a community’s ability to prosper economically.”

Governor Perdue recommended and the General Assembly approved Amended FY2008 and FY2009 budget appropriations of $120 million for water infrastructure and reservoir development.

“The projects that we agreed to finance today show how GEFA helps communities of all sizes, in all areas of the state,” said J.C. Warren, chairman of the GEFA board of directors and a member of the Screven County board of commissioners. “From the smallest of communities to the largest, GEFA is investing in communities that are willing to invest in themselves.”

GEFA helps communities prepare for economic growth and development through the provision of low interest loans and grants. The Georgia Fund is a state funded loan program administered by GEFA for water, wastewater and solid waste infrastructure projects. The loan program has maximum flexibility and accessibility, providing fast loan approvals. The Georgia Fund finances loans to local governments for projects such as water and sewer lines, treatment plants, pumping stations, wells, water storage tanks and water meters. Low interest loans from this program range from $20,000 to $50 million.

The DWSRF and CWSRF are federal loan programs administered by GEFA for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects respectively. Eligible projects include a wide variety of public health-related water supply, wastewater collection and treatment projects.
Details of the loans and grants approved today are below:

Madison County Industrial Development & Building Authority

The Madison County Industrial Development & Building Authority was approved for a DWSRF loan of $1,365,000 and a subsidy of $385,000 to help finance the construction of new water mains to provide interconnections to the county’s Hull and Madico systems, the construction of new water mains to serve additional areas of the county and maintain water pressures within the system, and the construction of new wells to provide additional supply. The Madison County Industrial Development & Building Authority will pay zero percent interest on the 20-year loan. GEFA is financing the entire estimated cost of $1,750,000.

Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority

The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority (LLIDA) was approved for a CWSRF loan of $15,000,000 for the construction of a new 500,000 gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant. LLIDA will pay 3.75 percent interest on the 15-year loan. GEFA is financing the entire estimated cost of $15,000,000.

City of Cornelia

The city of Cornelia was approved for a Georgia Fund sewer grant of $100,000 to help finance a sewer extension to residents who are currently on septic tanks. Sixty homes in the area will be able to discontinue the use of septic tanks. The total project cost is $1,215,071 with GEFA providing $100,000 in a sewer grant, the Department of Community Affairs providing $500,000 in a Community Development Block Grant and the city of Cornelia providing $615,071 in local funds.

City of Millen

The city of Millen was approved for a Georgia Fund sewer grant of $99,623 to help finance a sewer extension to residents who are currently on septic tanks. Eighteen homes in the area will be able to discontinue the use of septic tanks. GEFA is financing the entire estimated cost of $99,623.

City of Statham

The city of Statham was approved for a Georgia Fund sewer grant of $100,000 to help finance a sewer extension to residents who are currently on septic tanks. One hundred fifty-three homes in the area will be able to discontinue the use of septic tanks. The total project cost is $3,036,273, with GEFA providing $2,790,000 in a previously approved Georgia Fund Loan and the city providing $146,273 in local funds.

City of West Point

The city of West Point was approved for a Georgia Fund loan of $2,450,300 to help finance the construction of water and sewer lines to support economic development in the city. The city will pay 4.1 percent interest on the 20-year loan. The total cost is $3,950,300 with two OneGeorgia grants totaling $1,500,000 providing the balance.

Cities and counties interested in more information regarding GEFA loans and grants should visit or call (404) 584-1000.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Georgia volunteers needed for rain gauge network

Georgia weather experts need precise, timely information on the amount of rain and when it falls across the state. With good access to the Web and rain gauges in hand, citizens can help.
The non-profit organization Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, known as CoCoRaHS, is looking for volunteers to collect rainfall data in Georgia, said Pam Knox, the state’s assistant state climatologist and researcher with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“This is a great chance for weather enthusiasts and average citizens to be part of a project that collects vital rainfall data,” said Knox. “The data is readily available to the general public and other organizations. It is also critically important to understanding how rainfall varies around the state in times of limited water supply, such as the current drought in Georgia.”

So far, 150 Georgians from 58 counties have signed up this spring, she said. But more volunteers are needed, particularly in south Georgia.

Volunteers must purchase and use a rain gauge able to measure to the one-hundredth of an inch. A good one costs $22 plus shipping and handling, she said. They will be trained to use an interactive Web site to post data.

Information the volunteers collect will be used by climatologists, hydrologists, water resource managers, UGA Cooperative Extension agents and experts with the National Weather Service, she said.

“Official measuring stations across the state are sparse, and rainfall can vary quite a bit over short distances,” Knox said. “With trained volunteers, CoCoRaHS helps fill these gaps and supply users with a better picture of rainfall patterns.”

An introductory meeting and training session will be held on the UGA campus in Athens on May 22 at 7:30 pm in the Driftmier Engineering Center auditorium on Agriculture Drive. The guest speaker will be Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, the founder of the CoCoRaHS network.

The CoCoRaHS program started in Colorado in 1998. The network now includes 31 states and more than 9,000 observers who take daily measurements of rain, hail or snow. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.

To volunteer or to learn more, visit the Web site or, send an e-mail to

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Water efficiency workshop May 21 in Atlanta

Anyone who wants to learn how to turn water efficiency into a financially sound investment should attend a water efficiency workshop May 21-22 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.

The workshop is designed for people who have businesses or responsibilities that depend heavily on water.

Participants will hear from leading regional and national experts. Topics will include water management and conservation in Georgia and presentations by professionals and stakeholders from the San Antonio Water System. Panel groups will discuss financial realities of conserving water, building stakeholder support for conservation and challenges for conservation planning in Georgia.

For more information or to register, go to the Web site Or, call (770) 618-8690.
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