By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Infrastructure is easy to take for granted. Out in the world we drive blithely to work without much thought of the road beneath our wheels, whizzing over bridges without undue speculation as to how we’d cross the river if they weren’t there. Even at home we flip wall switches to light up our rooms or pick up the phone to call out without a moment’s consideration for the cables, fiber optics, power lines and hydroelectric dams it takes to make these little miracles happen.
Well, the Sentinel is solidly against that kind of complacency and is thus proud to afford Dade Water Authority’s Doug Anderton, recently named as president of the National Rural Water Association (see related article), the opportunity to brag a little here about the miracle that happens when you turn on a faucet in Dade County.
“It’s good water. It’s very good water,” said Anderton. “We take it out of Lookout Creek. Twenty-two miles south of us here is the headwaters at Valley Head. It comes out of the mountain as a spring, and then all along the way till we pull it out here at the intake, it’s springs coming out from under the mountain feeding it. So it’s a pretty good source of water in its raw form.”
Lookout Creek does pick up impurities running through the pastures and crop fields to the intake point at Trenton, so the Water Authority does treat it and chlorinate it. “But it’s not bad even before we start doing anything to it,” added Anderton. “It’s not like pulling it out of the Tennessee River.”
The Water Authority has a long list of contaminants it looks for in the raw water, and after the water is treated, the Authority tests it again. “In my history here, which will be 41 years next month, we have never had a violation,” said Anderton. “We’ve always tested pure, good water.”
To objections to the “hardness” of Dade’s water,” Anderton can only shrug philosophically. “Hardness and softness of water is more determined by your geographic area, the minerals in the ground that the water picks up,” he said. “That’s out of our control.”
“Soft” water lathers easily with soap; “hard” water takes more effort, Anderton explained. But he said Dade’s water is somewhere in the middle. “On a scale from 0 to 150, our water would be 75,” said Anderton.
Anderton came to Dade Water Authority fresh out of college in 1971, when it had something like 1,100 customers. The Authority had begun operations only nine years earlier, in 1962, after being first chartered in 1958. At that point, Anderton said, there were probably 7- to 800 customers, barely enough to amortize the bond needed to pay for the first lines.
Now the Authority has 15 employees and serves about 6,800 households, not just in Dade but also in Walker County atop Lookout Mountain, where the roads go in and out of the county lines at bewildering intervals.
Incidentally, Anderton reported that Walker County, after a lengthy study of which of its residents were served by Dade pipes, has appeared to drop its plan to purchase that infrastructure.