Water is back on in Chattooga County as flood relief efforts continue

Contributed Photo by the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce / An aerial photograph taken last weekend of flooded manufactured homes in the Fields Walk Mobile Home Park in Pennville, an unincorporated community between Trion and Summerville.

"Chattooga Strong" is what Cindy McGraw, executive director of the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce, said people are calling the communitywide effort to recover from last weekend's disastrous floods.

Residents of Chattooga County, Georgia, are still cleaning up and tallying damage, while as of Friday afternoon Summerville's municipal water system is working again.

Community leaders praised the recovery and relief work done by volunteers to supply drinking water to people who went without for most of the week, coordinate showers and laundry service, as well as provide food to Chattooga County residents in need.

"We're trying to assess the damages of the entire community," McGraw said in a phone interview. "So the hardest hit, of course, is downtown Summerville. Trion has a bit of flooding up there, and we've got some issues in Pennville and Lyerly. I think it's touched every corner of this county."

On a city of Summerville social media page, there was an update on the municipal water system, offline since the city's water treatment facility was flooded last weekend. Posted Thursday night, the page said filters three and four were operating.

A boil advisory will still be in effect for "several weeks" once the system is pressurized, the post said, and will be lifted when Bac T -- a test for a dangerous bacteria called coliform -- samples come up negative.

  photo  Contributed Photo by Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce / Multiple cars and trucks were flooded in Chattooga County over the weekend, and more rain is predicted this weekend.

Jason Green, manager of Summerville's Water Treatment Plant said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that people are getting water and the plant is running at "near capacity."

"Basically, what I told you we were going to do is what we've done," Green said, referring to his prediction Tuesday afternoon that he and his team would have the plant back up and running Friday.

Janice Galloway, Summerville city manager, could not be reached for comment.

Blake Elsberry, sole commissioner of Chattooga County, said the Georgia Department of Transportation is in the county with a "huge crew" fixing road issues. He also said in a phone interview that some U.S. Department of Agriculture funds have been made available for the recovery effort.

The county is still gathering data, hoping to qualify for a federal disaster designation. Elsberry said he hasn't heard anything about the application but knows it's been submitted.

On a tour of the area Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp said that the state meteorologist is predicting more rain this weekend.

The city of Summerville announced on social media that supplies for filling sandbags are available at the garage on Henry Street. The post said residents had to fill their own bags.

(READ MORE: Heavy rains trigger 'terrible' flooding across Northwest Georgia)

Russ Cooper, in a social media message, said his water came back on Friday about noon. He said the community has been "awesome" in its response to the disaster -- including both locals and small business owners who helped out and churches that have fed residents and set up mobile showers.

"I know this flood was a lot to bear for the rivers that cross our county, but I hope we can find a way to keep downtown from flooding so quickly," the Summerville resident said. "It floods there anytime we have a significant amount of rain."

There has to be some sort of underlying issue that causes the flooding, Cooper said, "but altogether, it's good to see the good come out it in bad times. Good people here."

  photo  Contributed Photo by Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce / A flooded street in Summerville, Georgia, is shown last weekend.

Throughout the water shortage, McGraw said there was "plenty" of water donated by private and public agencies, businesses and organizations. Most of that water, as well as food, shower and laundry services, was given out by faith-based communities, the Salvation Army and Georgia Baptist Relief.

There's an updated emergency resources page on the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce and Chattooga County's website, as well as information on how residents can report flood damage. McGraw said officials are trying to keep the messaging consistent, and she gave her phone number for residents who don't use the internet: 706-466-9014.

McGraw said the main role of the chamber is to make sure damage assessments are done so the Georgia Emergency Management Authority can take those to the governor and pass them along to Biden administration for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

People can also give donations on the chamber's website, McGraw said. Funds go into separate account, she said, and will go to needs in the community, both residential and commercial.

"It's been a bit of a week that seems like it's been a month," McGraw said. "We're getting there, and things are starting to look better because the water has come back online -- although there is rain predicted this weekend."

McGraw also credited volunteers in the community, as well as the county's state emergency response team and first responders.

(READ MORE: Chattooga County, Georgia, to get freestanding emergency room)

After this weekend, county officials will be completing damage assessments, "so we can get those to the governor's desk, and he'll take it from there," she said.

It's important that people report their flood damages, she said.

"The community has come together so well that we'll be OK," McGraw said. "We call it Chattooga Strong."

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.