published Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

FBI investigating break-in at Murray County, Ga., water plant

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CHATSWORTH, Ga. — The FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and a sheriff's department are investigating a break-in at a water treatment plant in the North Georgia mountains, authorities said.

About 400 water customers around the small community of Ramhurst have been ordered not to drink water following the Friday break-in at the Carters Lake Water Treatment Plant in Murray County. About 10 to 15 residents near the plant currently have no water at all, said Chatsworth Water Works manager Steve Smith.

Someone changed the settings for how chlorine and fluoride feed into the system, Smith told The Daily Citizen of Dalton.

The water company's tests show none of the changed levels of chemicals ever made it out of the plant, which was shut down as a precaution, Smith said.

"This is a precautionary measure only and no contamination has been detected in any of the water system," the local water commission said in a statement.

The FBI began investigating because a water plant break-in could potentially fall under the realm of homeland security, Smith said.

"First thing I thought of was somebody's trying to kill us, trying to poison our water," resident Chirstine Forrest told WRCB-TV.

"We use water for pretty much everything from cooking to drinking and now we're not going to be able to," resident Steven Forrest said.

Whoever did it managed to get past barbed wire around the plant, and no windows or doors are broken, the Chattanooga station reported.

Bottles of water were scarce at some stores in the area.

"Pretty much going to every store from here to Ellijay trying to find water," Forrest said.

The plant will be shut down until the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division's bacteriological analysis shows everything is normal, Smith said.

Smith said he said he hopes the plant will be back in operation by the end of the week.

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