Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times Dale and Sandra Meador draw water from a spring system near their home and had a filtration system installed after more farmers and livestock moved into the area.

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

Dale and Sandra Meador draw water from a spring system near their home and had a filtration system installed after more farmers and livestock moved into the area.

County residents Dale and Sandra Meador have drawn their water from a spring for years, but growth in cattle farming has threatened an E. coli buildup in the stream.

However, the two have been drinking water with peace of mind after Nashville's Westminster Presbyterian Church built them a filtration system on Wednesday.

"You feel better about your water, knowing that it's getting filtrated," Dale Meador said. "Plus, it's getting purified … it runs through an ultraviolet light that kills the bacteria."

The filtration systems themselves are provided free of charge, with residents responsible only for materials like boards needed to support the equipment.

"With the farmers around, you don't ever know what's draining," Sandra Meador said. "Years ago, you didn't have all those chemicals, but today, there are more of them."

Dennis Williams, the Tennessee coordinator for Westminister Presbyterian Church's Living Waters for the World, has led the group (composed largely of retired engineers) for almost a decade.

"We've completed a total of 25 systems in Macon County since 2011," Williams said. "(Our assistant pastor) Carson (Salyer) came up with the idea that each person we help should find us another person who needs water, and between that and recommendations from the mayor, we've stayed busy."

The church has installed systems in several other Tennessee counties and has also done work in Peru after church members Bill and Beth Kline traveled to the Amazon rainforest and found a city in need.

"Before he went down there, Bill found out about Living Waters for the World and had gone to a training course outside Oxford," Williams said. "They found an opportunity to put a water treatment system in a neighborhood in the city of Iquitos … and contacted a member of Living Waters to raise money for the church to go to Peru and put the system in."

Work for the group was not always steady, and they struggled to find a service area after initially completing builds in Tazewell (an eight-hour round trip for most of the church body).

"We started looking for an area closer to Nashville," Williams said. "We went out with flyers and banged on doors, but that went over like a lead balloon to hear, 'We're from Nashville, and we're going to fix your water for free' … it sounds too good to be true."

However, a chance meeting on Highway 52 led to the group taking on regular projects in Macon County.

"We were really discouraged and decided to go home on 52," Williams said. "We stopped at a restaurant and talked to the owner about what we were trying to do, and he pointed out a county commissioner sitting nearby. He set up a meeting for me with Shelby Linville, who was the county mayor at the time, and we got the name and address of a gentleman who had been drawing water from a creek."

Since then, the group has visited Macon County residents like Lisa Cothron and installed systems to meet their needs.

"I had spring water, so this was an opportunity to get it purified," Cothron said. "I got in touch with them because some of my family members had systems installed and were impressed."

Cothron's system came with a water softener to filter out materials like calcium and magnesium, in addition to the church's usual installation of two filters and an ultraviolet light.

"The day they came out, they had quite a crew, and it was really interesting to watch them work," Cothron said. "Now, I know that the water from the spring is purified and safe to drink. We're flabbergasted and thankful there are organizations that want to do something to help. They were a good bunch of men with high character."

Once the church comes in contact with a resident looking for a filtration system, they test the water over several months to figure out which devices to install.

"We can put in a system with a softener in about three to four hours and a simple system with two filters and a UV light within one or two," Williams said. "Once we get the system installed, we run chlorine into the lines throughout the house until we smell it. That kills all the bacteria in the water lines."

After the system is installed, Williams takes a final bacteria sample to confirm the water is clean within 48 hours and lets the homeowners know.

Williams estimated the group's next system should be installed late in February and said their goal is to put in roughly eight throughout 2019 and match their numbers from last year.

Those interested in having a filtration system installed can contact Williams at 615-790-0601 or email dwilliamsewilliams@gmail.com.

"My job with the Army Corps of Engineers was flood-damage prevention," Williams said. "To be able to do something in retirement that has to do with water and engineering is thrilling, and I love calling people up and telling them their water is safe to drink."