Not all Columbia County water customers get a monthly bill from the county Water Works.
About 60 homes in Phillips Estates off Baston Road get water through the county's oldest operating water system.
"My granddaddy started it when there was no other water systems around here," said John Phillips, the owner and operator of the Martinez Water Association.
Phillips' grandfather, William Lester Phillips, started supplying water to lots he owned in one of Martinez's first subdivisions in the mid-1950s.
"He ... wanted to provide good water to folks at a reasonable price," said Phillips, who inherited the water system more than 25 years ago.
A 300-foot well provides drinking water for about 150 residents on Park Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, Lake Shore Loop, Phillips Drive and Crestview Drive. These residents receive no county utility services because they also use septic tanks.
The system is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Environmental Protection Division. Phillips said he takes water samples to the county water utility lab for monthly testing.
The county has an emergency tie into the system to prevent water shortages, Phillips said.
At 67, Phillips, who also owns CSRA Fire Extinguishers, said he's ready to step away from the water business but can't.
"I'm getting old and it is getting to be quite a job to do sometimes," Phillips said.
After approaching county officials, Phillips said he was told the county wouldn't take over the system because it would cost too much to upgrade. He said he was told by EPA officials that he'd be arrested if he walked away from the system.
"It is my responsibility until I get someone who is just as qualified, or more qualified, to run the place," he said. "I guess if I die, I'd be free and clear, but I can't walk away from it."
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