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July 26, 2007 Issue

New water lines could be a mixed blessing
Relocating a honeybee hive
Copperhead bites Grange-area toddler

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New water lines could be a mixed blessing

• Water pressure could double in nearly 35 Louisville homes; engineer warns that some older pipes may not be able to withstand the force

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A meeting held Thursday, July 19, between residents of the Green Acres subdivision and the contractor hired to run new water lines offered some reassurance. About 35 homes will be affected by the new water lines, according to Jefferson County Water Superintendent Murray Hadden. Several residents in attendance said the only concern they have currently is with the low water pressure in their homes.


Laura Smith, a Green Acres resident, said she and her husband moved into the area in November. The house was built in 1965. They bought the house from the daughter of the previous owner, she said. “We don’t have a lot of pressure but we had new pipes put in when we moved.”

Gloria and Harry Cooper moved into their home at Thanksgiving in 1970, Mrs. Cooper said. She said they have trouble with their water pressure.

Another couple, Kevin and Casey Maxwell, have lived in their home for about two years, according to Mrs. Maxwell who said they don’t have the kinds of problems others reported.

Robert Barker, an engineer and the operating manager for the contractor Harris Trucking and Construction from Augusta, addressed the crowd of about 25 people.

“We’re fixing to mess it up,” he said. The work should begin in about two weeks and be complete within 60 days after that, he said, adding that one section will be done at a time to avoid affecting the entire area at the same time. One of the main problems, according to Barker, is most of the lines that are underground are not marked.

“I don’t know where everything is, so I’m going to cut it,” he said, adding that it would not be intentional but not being able to locate the lines will cause potential problems.

One resident told Barker she runs a home-based business dependent on water.

“Ma’am, we will work with you,” Barker said. “I can put in a bypass or give you temporary water. I will not put you out of business.”

Barker said another problem is the majority of lines are 40- to 45-year-old galvanized pipes. “I will probably repair that two-inch line 200 times in 60 days,” he said. “Those lines are very fragile.” He added he would be working in sections of 200 feet at a time.

He assured the residents that, although every drive will be cut, the driveways will be just as good after the work as they were before. “If you have a concrete drive now, you’ll have a concrete drive when we’re through. If you have a cement driveway now, you’ll have a cement drive when we’re through,” he said.

He said when the project is complete, residents will have double the pressure they’re used to having. There will probably be some problems because the lines are old and fatigued. “They’re very brittle,” he said.

The new rate will be 40 pounds of pressure. Not all of the old galvanized pipes will withstand the force.

“You’re going to have some problems,” he said. “You’re not going to have pipes breaking out of the wall.”

An alternative Barker suggested the residents consider is a pressure reducing valve. He said this would be at a $150 cost to the homeowner per unit. This would allow the homeowner to regulate the pressure and use only what is on the lines now, which is 20 pounds of pressure.

One man said this would mean that, after all the work was done, houses with the valve would still have low water pressure. “We would have the same thing we have now,” he said.

Another man said his house has copper pipes. Hadden and Barker agreed he would not have problems because of the change. Additionally, they said homes with PVC pipes would not have problems. The concern is for the galvanized pipes.

Hadden said his department would be able to locate the galvanized pipes, which would reduce the inadvertent cutting of pipes that Barker anticipates if he’s unable to locate the lines.

Barker said although every drive will be cut, there will be only three cuts to the road and each cut will last only one day. Advance notice will be given to the county in case emergency vehicles need access during the subsequent detours.

Further concerns from the crowd involved increase of rates and the source of the funding. Commission Chairman William Rabun said the rates would not go up for the residents because of this work.

“We buy water from the city,” Rabun said. “If they go up on us, we have to pass it on.”

County Clerk Mary Lamb said the county was required to have a fund for this type of work. The basis for the fund was a low interest loan. “We’re still paying it back,” she said, but assured the group the funds were already available.

The repairs will cost $133,346, Lamb said. “We got the loan from FHA. They’ve changed it since then. They required us to keep putting money in the account but we have enough to pay for these repairs,” she said.

One man asked how much of the yards would be effected. Barker said he would be digging a trench and would try to keep the disruption to as little as possible. “Sir, the more I dig, the more I have to put back. So I want it to be limited,” Barker said.

“Before he started, I would check to see if I had galvanized pipe,” said Commissioner Tommy New. “And if I did, I would replace it.”

Barker said a video will be made of the work to note anything of interest as an assurance that everything will be put back as close to the current landscape of everyone’s yard and drive. “We’re going to tear your yard up, in the front,” he said. “But there’ll be no significant changes. There are some dogwood trees. I won’t have to cut them down but I will have to trim some of them.”

Additionally, he stressed that all of the men have had a background check. “They will be in your yard and they will be safe to be around your family. There won’t be anything to worry about with my men.”

Barker also asked everyone to let him, Rabun or county administrator Paul Bryan know if there are residents whose health could be affected by the work.

Barker said although he plans to start the work in about two weeks and expects the work to take 60 days to complete, he will not be running water to the houses immediately. “The line will not be on for about a month and a half, two months from right now,” he said.

Hadden, the county’s water superintendent, said about three-fourths of the houses in the area probably have galvanized pipe, but only from the meter to the house. “I don’t think you’ll find a one that’s plumbed with galvanized pipe underneath,” he said.

Relocating a honeybee hive

Some jobs are sweeter

• Bees rumored to have been swarming in this spot for around 30 years

By Jessica Newberry

They may be pests to most people, but his work with honeybees have evolved from a hobby to a way of life for Wayne Hunsucker.

As the head of Buzzin’ Blossoms Bee Farm of Evans, Hunsucker and his son, Justin, use their beekeeping pastime as a way to produce flavorful honey while preserving America’s honeybee population.


“About 90 percent of the feral population was lost last year, but it’s a shame to lose such wonderful honey and such hardworking bees,” he said.

To increase the number of bees that Buzzin’ Blossoms has producing honey, Hunsucker and his son travel around the area relocating colonies that would otherwise be exterminated.

Downtown Louisville has been home to its own colony of feral bees for years, although the exact amount of time ranges from a couple years to over 25, depending on who you ask.

The honeybees set up house in the awning above H&R Block on West Broad Street in a building owned by Jon Barnhart of Louisville.

“This is the perfect location for a colony with protection from the weather under the awning,” Hunsucker said.

“We had to figure out how to remove the tiles without breaking them to get to the comb.”

He estimated that the hive housed approximately 60,000 to 80,000 bees.

“This is a huge hive, much larger than we usually see,” said Hunsucker.

Although efforts have been made in the past to get rid of the insects, Buzzin’ Blossoms was contacted to remove the colony from the structure.

“We’ve had two calls today,” he said.

“We receive more calls in the spring and summer, but from now until fall things will slow down quite a bit.”

The Hunsuckers made their third trip to Louisville on Monday, July 16, to move the honey bees from Jefferson County to a hive in Evans.

“It usually takes about three trips because we have to plan how to remove them, do the extraction and then wash the honey smell from the area to prevent another colony from moving in.”

After trying to remove the bees by using scaffolding, the Hunsuckers decided to stand on the roof to reach the combs that were under the roof tiles.

Justin Hunsucker and a family friend wore coveralls and protective hats and gloves while using a vacuum cleaner to extract the bees.

After pumping smoke into the hive, the bees are collected into a mesh bag. “The smoke disorients them so they can’t communicate, making them more docile,” Hunsucker said.

The captured bees are then dumped into boxes with frames of foundation wax to be transported to Buzzin’ Blossoms.

They are then installed in a new hive with their queen where they will begin producing honey for harvest.

“We won’t know if we have the queen until we put them in a comb in Augusta, but based on the formation of this hive, she looks like a great one,” he said.

Bees communicate using pheromones, and they work in the hive according to age.

Those that are less than a week old are nurse bees who feed the larvae.

In their second week, the bees become guards or housekeepers and then they are forage bees that collect either pollen or nectar.

“I have 32 years of beekeeping experience, and this is the most fascinating thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

“Bees are very organized and social; they’re just amazing.”

Buzzin’ Blossoms honey sells for $10 per quart, or approximately three pounds.

A typical hive needs to produce 125 to 150 pounds of honey to survive, so Hunsucker hopes that each will produce about 250 pounds per year.

“Bees travel 20,000 miles to 33 million blossoms to produce one pound of honey so it takes a lot of energy,” said Hunsucker.

“We’re really into flavors, too, so we’re always looking for abundant floral supplies.

We can get holly tree, blackberry and tulip poplar pollen in this area, but we also travel to North Carolina with the bees each year for the sourwood pollen.”

After extracting as many bees as possible, Hunsucker completed the third step of the process by securing the awning from future colonies.

“All they need is three-eighths of an inch to get back under the tiles, so we have to make sure the area is closed tightly,” Hunsucker said.

For more information on honeybee extractions or their variety of flavored honey, contact Buzzin’ Blossoms Bee Farm at (706) 631-3361.

Copperhead bites Grange-area toddler

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

After celebrating the nation’s birthday, one Jefferson County family celebrated the life of their 18-month-old son, Fisher.

July 5, Shane and Michelle Rabun were having some friends over at their Grange residence when a baby copperhead became anything but friendly with their son.


The Rabuns farm the land around their home and also run Belle Lakes Upland Bird Hunting from their home, where the snake struck Fisher. While Michelle was watching their son Hunter, Shane was watching as Fisher walked into his playhouse. “The baby started crying,” Michelle said of the beginning of a three-day ordeal. “My husband ran over there to see what was wrong. As he crawled in the playhouse to see, the snake tried to snap at him. It was a baby copperhead.”

“I thought maybe it was a wasp,” Shane added. “He was standing at the door of the playhouse like he couldn’t get out. I went and opened the door so he could get out and stuck my head about halfway in the house. Then I saw the snake was fixing to get me.”

The copperhead had struck Fisher on his left shin. Shane said after figuring that maybe the snake bit his son, he noticed two fang marks and blood coming out of the boy's leg.

“My husband grabbed him and started screaming and running,” Michelle said.

“I knew all we had was maybe minutes or an hour to get help,” Shane said. “Time was very critical. If his blood clotted up, it could cause heart failure. I just said, ‘We got to go.’”

Shane and Michelle took Fisher to Jefferson Hospital in their van. Michelle said one of their friends took their other son down the road, but came back later to kill the hemotoxin snake.

“To be honest, my husband is a jokester, when he grabbed Fisher, I thought he was just aggravating Fisher to make him stop crying,” Michelle said. “It took me a minute to understand what he was saying. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t cry. I was more shocked and freaking out than anything. I couldn’t even pray.

“I just jumped in the van and flew to Louisville. I was going so fast, I was thinking the wheels were going to fall off of my van.”

Shane wrapped his hand around Fisher’s leg, like a makeshift tourniquet, to keep the venom released in his bloodstream from rushing up his leg.

When the Rabuns reached Jefferson Hospital, doctors were already expecting the couple and their son. One of their friends had called area hospitals to tell them they were coming.

Doctors already had the anti-venom ready for Fisher and had contacted the Poison Control Center and other hospitals to make sure they were going to give him the correct amount.

“They were making sure they agreed on the right dosage,” Shane said. “Too much can be just as deadly as the bite.”

Preparing to give Fisher the anti-venom, doctors were having trouble getting the IV in Fisher’s neck.

“It took about two hours to get the IV in,” Michelle said. “He is a chubby little boy. He was going crazy for mama. I had to listen to my baby scream for that long. I began to wonder how long they had to get the anti-venom in. I held up OK until then.”

Shane stayed in the room with Fisher, with his hand still wrapped around his son’s leg.

“I knew it was hurting him, but it was very important to get the anti-venom in,” Shane said.

Once the anti-venom was administered, doctors faced another problem, Fisher suffered an allergic reaction.

“He swole up like a balloon,” Michelle said.

Shane said doctors gave Fisher a dose of Benadryl to get the swelling to go down. Afterwards, Fisher was transported by ambulance to the Medical College of Georgia’s Children’s Medical Center.

“They had surgeons waiting on us when we arrived,” Michelle said. “They were worried it would cut off the circulation to his foot and they would have to operate. They decided not to do surgery, but measured his leg every hour to see if the swelling was going away.”

Fisher stayed in ICU at the Children’s Center for 24 hours, before doctors moved him to a regular room. Fisher was released the following Monday, but the doctors’ visits were not over yet.

“Because it was a hemotoxin snake, it affected his blood,” Michelle said. “His blood work kept coming up funny.”

The couple had to take Fisher back to the doctor every 48 hours. Fisher’s last doctor’s visit was last Monday.

After the bite, Shane and Michelle found out new information on snakes.

“With a baby copperhead, they have the same amount of venom as adult snakes, but can’t control it,” Michelle explained of the reason it was hard to determine how much anti-venom to give Fisher.

“I combined a field of clover near our house,” Shane said. “It runs them out. It was just looking for somewhere else to go because in the daytime they are trying to find somewhere to hide. At night, they are looking for food.

“A copperhead is the most aggressive snake of the ones you see around here. A copperhead will chase you. I was surprised it didn’t bite him more than once and it has one of the most painful bites.”

After Fisher was first bitten, doctors were afraid that the venom would cause the skin around the bite area to deteriorate and rot, but Michelle said the only evidence of the bite is a knot on his shin and two little bruises where the fangs sank in.

“You would never know now,” Michelle said. “He’s fine now. I don’t know if he knew what happened. It scared my oldest son more than him. He is my daredevil child. He’s not afraid of anything and he is a tough little cookie. I am very certain he was lucky. The Lord was looking after him.”

Before the incident with Fisher, Shane had almost stepped on a rattlesnake, which he killed, the day before at a farmstead down the road. Michelle said she had only seen a baby rattlesnake in their yard.

“I don’t even go outside unless Shane is out there with us,” Michelle said of her family after the incident. “I am more paranoid about it now. I wanted to take all of the toys out of the yard. I think everybody is a little nervous.”

The Rabuns are grateful though for the help they received from the doctors at the hospital. They said they were impressed with the hospital’s readiness to help their son.

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