GA - Macon Reports Year's 5th Big Sewage Spill : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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GA - State EPD Says Lacks Resources to Investigate Every Sewage Spill in Georgia


Title: Macon Reports Years's 5th Big Sewage Spill

By Christopher Schwarzen THE MACON TELEGRAPH

April 29, 2000

A Rose Street sewage overflow may not be as large as first reported to state environmental officials last week, the Macon Water Authority said Friday.

SPILLS THIS YEAR Sewage overflows & causes this year:

1. Feb. 7, Lake Wildwood subdivision. Blockage caused by poor pipe installation.

2. March 7, Kensington Drive. The line broke after a storm water pipe settled on it.

3. March 9, Bass and New Forsyth roads. Tree roots backed up a buried manhole.

4. March 21, Mercer University Boulevard and Holland Drive. A tree trunk and large rocks blocked the line.

5. April 21, Rose Street. Grease and other debris in the manhole.

The water authority told the state Environmental Protection Division more than 10,000 gallons seeped from a manhole blocked with grease and debris. The spill was reported on April 21 and lasted two days. Rose Street is near Interstate 75.

Under state regulations, any spill larger than 10,000 gallons is considered a major overflow and must be reported for possible investigation.

George Greer, the water authority's collection systems assistant manager, wants to withdraw that report, believing the spill is less than 10,000 gallons.

"We're questioning it following our sample reports for coliform levels," Greer said. "Our initial coliform levels were nine parts per million."

A public swimming pool can often contain as much coliform as 200 parts per million, a safe level, Greer said. Coliform indicates the potential presence of fecal coliform and other bacteria that can cause sickness if ingested by humans.

"If 10,000 gallons had spilled out there, there'd be higher levels," Greer said.

The water authority, which cleaned up the spill last Friday and Saturday, will spend most of next week gauging the amount of sewage that flows through the line, Greer said. Those figures will determine how much sewage could have spilled during a two-day period.

"If it's less, then we'll contact the state and ask them to consider the overflow as less," he said. Anything less than 10,000 gallons doesn't have to be reported.

State officials acknowledged the water authority reported the April 21 overflow. This is the fifth major overflow reported to the state this year. The water authority was fined $7,500 for six spills during 1999.

"If they want to downsize this spill, then they need to do the flow monitoring and send us that information," said Jim Sommerville, a supervisor in the EPD's permitting, compliance and enforcement program. "We'll look at that and determine whether or not it's sound engineering."

The water authority has been in continuous contact with the EPD following its first major overflow on Feb. 7 in the Lake Wildwood subdivision.

EPD officials are considering an enforcement action against the water authority for the spill because of the lake's recreational uses. That could include a monetary fine.

Each subsequent spill, including the April 21 overflow, will be considered before any enforcement order is sent, Sommerville said. He believes a response will be ready next week.

Greer said the EPD usually cooperates when downsizing overflows. The water authority also wants to downsize an overflow at Kensington Drive on March 7.

"I'd rather report these as a major first, if I don't know than say the opposite," Greer said. "I've been doing this for years and don't have the habit of sending bad information to the state. They don't like that."

Falsifying documents can be punishable by fines and jail time.

Greer said he hopes to have the flow-monitoring information for this spill sent to the state within the next couple weeks.


-- (, April 29, 2000

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