City of Tybee Island to discuss stalled deep well project

City of Tybee Island to discuss stalled deep well project

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Thursday night, Tybee Island City Council will discuss the stalled deep well project that's meant to bring the island another source of drinkable water.

Almost two years ago to the day, the company building a new well said the casing around the well collapsed about 3,000 feet underground, bringing the project to a halt.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman wrote a letter about two months ago, asking the state's attorney general to hold the companies involved in the design and construction of the failed well project accountable. The mayor says his request was answered in a big way.

"Two days ago, the attorney general filed a lawsuit against pretty much all the parties that were involved in the design and construction of this deep well, and that's something we were hoping would happen, so that there could be some resolution to this, because ultimately what we want is a new well," the mayor said.

The suit says in part that "as a result of CH2M's breach of the Design Contract, GEFA has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial." CH2M designed the well and oversaw construction. GEFA is the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

The suit claims "CH2M did not exercise the necessary degree of care, learning, skill, and ability in designing and overseeing the construction of the well and was instead negligent in its design of the well and the supervision of its construction."

Unlike other towns and cities in Chatham County, Tybee Island can't draw fresh water from Savannah's supply. Water instead comes from the Floridan Aquifer. With state-imposed limits on how much can be drawn from that source and the possibility of saltwater intrusion, Tybee is looking to tap into what's called the Cretaceous Aquifer.

"The availability of water is not a short-term issue. We're not expecting there will be a saltwater intrusion in the next five to 10 years. However, the state is telling us that we have to reduce, just like everybody else, how much water we withdraw, so that permit right now is a reduction from what it used to be," Mayor Buelterman said.

The mayor says those limits have already led to the city taking down showers at the beach, and long-term could mean severe water restrictions, which is why the new well is needed.

If the test well dug several years ago is, in fact, a bust, a new site will have to be found for a new well.

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