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Title: Water Authority Reports Two More Sewage Spills Both being handled as major overflows though exact amounts aren't known

By Hilary L. Hilliard


Two Bibb County sewage overflows within the last two weeks brought the total number of major spills this year to seven, one more than the total for all of 1999.

The Corbin Avenue lift station near Interstate 75 overflowed May 18 because of a malfunction at the station, according to Macon Water Authority officials. Another overflow occurred May 23 at Riverside and King Alfred drives. The second spill was caused by a grease clog in the sewage line, water authority officials said.

AT A GLANCE Sewage overflows in 2000:

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

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

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

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

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

May 18, Corbin Avenue lift station near I-75. Caused by a malfunction at the lift station.

May 23, Riverside and King Alfred drives. Caused by grease in the line.

"We are considering both of these to be major spills," said Frank Sanders, field operations director for the Macon Water Authority. "To be on the safe side, we are reporting them as major spills because we'd rather report them and later find out they weren't, than not report them and realize they were."

A major sewage overflow is defined as one that exceeds 10,000 gallons. The water authority can't give an exact amount of either spill.

"The only thing I know is that both of the spills were over 10,000 gallons, but we only know that by the amount of the sewage we saw on the ground," said Sanders.

When a sewage spill 10,000 gallons or larger, it must be reported to the state Environmental Protection Division, which decides whether further investigation will be conducted.

"(The spills) have been reported to us," said Jim Sommerville, supervisor of the permitting, compliance and enforcement program for the water protection branch of the EPD. "We're waiting for the sampling results to get the full report."

Those water samples are tested to determine if temperature, dissolved oxygen and coliform standards have been exceeded. Coliform levels can indicate the presence of fecal coliform and similar bacteria, which, if ingested, can cause sickness in humans.

"From there, when the results come in, we look at cause and impact and make a determination of how we need to address it," Sommerville said.

There are two options when the results are returned, Sommerville said. The EPD can respond either by looking at the water authority's report of the latest spills and writing a letter ordering a course of action, or can incorporate the most recent spills into a continuing investigation of the water authority and its sewage spills earlier this year.

The first recent spill occurred when the lift station, a device that pumps sewage up hills before it resumes gravitational flow, malfunctioned, and its pumps stopped.

The spill was found, reported quickly, and corrected soon afterwards, water authority officials said.

"Our crew that goes out and checks the lift stations noticed it when they went out to check, " Sanders said. "We're not really sure what caused the motors of the pumps to quit working, but when our crews got there, (the pumps) had been off long enough for sewage to back up and overflow."

Sanders estimated the spill flowed for about three hours.

"We think maybe that long, but we have no way of knowing for sure. We believe that only because of visual inspections. That's just a guess," Sanders said.

The May 23 spill happened at Riverside and King Alfred drives when a grease buildup hardened in the sewer line, causing sewage to back up and flow out of a man hole, water authority officials said. The overflow was found when a resident called the water authority complaining of an odor.

Sanders said the water authority believes the clog was caused by grease output from Pier 97, a seafood restaurant on Riverside Drive.

But Pier 97 owner Niven Van said the water authority came out to her restaurant late last week and said nothing was wrong.

"He just wanted to make sure the grease trap was cleaned up and there was no problem," said Van.

To contact Hilary L. Hilliard, call 744-4347 or e-mail


-- (, May 31, 2000

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