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County must pay $11,500 for sewage spills Repairs: The fines would have been higher, but Rockdale is upgrading its treatment plants.

Doug Nurse - Staff Thursday  February 10

Rockdale County has been fined $11,500 by the state's Environmental Protection Division for 29 sewage spills into area waterways.

The fines would have been higher, but EPD reduced them because the county has been under an EPD order to fix its system since 1998 and is spending $16 million to upgrade its treatment plants and repair and refurbish its sewer lines, said Jeff Larson, manager of permitting and enforcement of water protection for the EPD.

"We used an expedited process which allows us to reduce the penalties to move forward and get it behind us," Larson said.

Laurie Ashmore, director of the county's waste water system, said conversations with EPD staff suggested the fines had been halved.

She said the county has spent about $7 million to fix and upgrade the system thus far.

"I think it's paying off," she said. "In the early part of last year, we had more overflows from lift stations than in the latter part of the year, and I think that's reflective of the equipment replacement and the strong effort we're making."

There were seven lift stations spills from March to August and one from August to December.

The largest spill, 172,800 gallons, occurred in November in a wooded area on Pine Log Road. The volume was so great because a county-hired survey crew waited two weeks to report the spill.

Twenty-four spills were categorized as minor mishaps of less than 8,000 gallons. Five were considered major spills.

Another large spill occurred into Snapping Shoals Creek in January when a pump lost power during an ice storm. One of the smallest spills was in March when 75 gallons of effluent spilled at Cedar Brook Court.

Some overflows occurred because grease blocked the pipes and caused backups, Ashmore said, pleading: "Please, don't pour grease in your pipes."

OMI, a private contractor that manages and operates the waste water system, will pay $3,350 for spills at plants. The county is responsible for spills from the collection system.

Another contractor is paying $1,100 for breaking a sewer line during construction. "They didn't know the pipe was there, and there was some digging and blasting going on," Ashmore said.

Another large spill, about 109,000 gallons, flowed into Snapping Shoals Creek in January when a pump lost power during an ice storm. That spill wasn't reflected in the latest EPD order.

The county falls under the metro Atlanta zero-tolerance policy in which all spills must be reported immediately and draw a penalty.

"We're making progress," Ashmore said. "We're trying to deal with maintenance and we're looking for trends in areas of repeat spills to be in front of those problems instead of just reacting when spills occur."

-- Martin Thompson (, February 13, 2000

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