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Eighth big sewage spill plagues MWA By Christopher Schwarzen The Macon Telegraph

The Macon Water Authority reported Friday its eighth major sewage overflow of 2000 - one day after the state publicly announced the water authority must pay a $15,000 fine for its first spill this year.

AT A GLANCE Sewage overflows during 2000 and causes  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 Boulevard and Holland Drive: A tree trunk and large rocks blocked the line.

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

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

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

 Tuesday, Roff and Pio Nono avenues: Caused by grease in the line.

Norfolk Southern railroad workers found the overflow Tuesday between Roff and Pio Nono avenues.

Water authority crews said it took less than a day to clear. They believe grease buildup was the cause. None of the sewage entered any waterway, said Raymond Astumian, a distribution collection manager.

Although reported as a major spill, water authority crews believe now it may have been smaller than 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage. A spill of 10,000 gallons or more is considered major by the state Environmental Protection Division and must be reported.

"We're going to begin monitoring flow out there and should know better by next week how much escaped," Astumian said. "It's always better to report it as a major first."

Water authority crews will measure how much sewage runs through the line each day to help determine how much was spilled.

Astumian said the area had not had past grease problems but will now be added to a regular maintenance list. The water authority maintains about 700 miles of sewage lines.

On Thursday, the state EPD said it was fining the water authority $15,000 for a Feb. 7 overflow at Lake Wildwood, caused by a grease blockage. The fine was based on the size of the overflow, the lake's recreational value and similar spills that have occurred this year.

Among other things, the state is demanding the water authority revisit its grease management plan. Frank Amerson, the water authority chairman, says the management plan is already being reviewed and should help stop some of the overflows.

The water authority will need to report any changes in its management plan to the state for approval.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 10, 2000


MWA reports two more sewage spills

By Debbie Rhyne The Macon Telegraph 7/12/00

Thousands of gallons of raw sewage overflowed last week when the Macon Water Authority recorded two more major spills. This brings the total number of spills for the year to 12 - twice the number recorded in all of 1999.

A resident of the Lake Wildwood area reported a July 4 spill behind Country Oaks Drive Avenue. Two days later a second overflow on Riverside Drive behind the Midtown Shopping Center at Wimbish Road was called in.

Sewage overflows and causes:

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

2. March 7, Kensington Drive. The line broke after a stormwater 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. Caused by grease and other debris in the manhole.

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

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

8. June 6, Roff and Pio Nono avenues. Caused by grease in the line.

9. June 18, Plumtree Street and Fairview Avenue. Caused by grease in the line.

10. June 27, Karen Drive. Caused by grease and roots in the line.

11. July 4, Country Oaks Drive. Caused by grease in the line.

12. July 6, Riverside Drive. Caused by a root blockage.

Each overflow was reported to the state Environmental Protection Division as being more than 10,000 gallons, making it a major overflow. Since February, the authority has logged at least one major overflow a month.

Last week's first spill was caused by a grease blockage in the Tucker Road area that caused a manhole off Country Oaks to overflow. Some of the raw sewage leaked into a branch of Rocky Creek, said George Greer, assistant manager of the authority's collections system.

"Rocky Creek is to the point the only thing out there is water standing in deep areas," he said. "There's actually no flow in this creek right now."

Mark Wyzalek, the laboratory manager for the water authority, said the creek's mostly dry bed meant the sewage didn't get very far.

"Rocky Creek is completely dried up to the Monroe County line," he said. "When the spill occurred it sat there."

There is no evidence the spill contaminated the creek and there also is no evidence the spill affected nearby Lake Wildwood.

"There's no flow into Lake Wildwood from where the spill occurred," Wyzalek said. "Sewage was not flowing into the lake."

The water authority is monitoring the spill site and the nearby water sources for the presence of fecal coliform, a bacteria that has potential health risks for humans exposed to contaminated water.

The authority monitors these sites for a year. When a spill occurs, testing is done every day for the first week, then weekly for a month. The authority then tests weekly every third and 12th month.

The second spill, which occurred in a wooden area, was caused by root damage.

"It wasn't that much of an overflow," Greer said. "It just had been going on for a while.

"... The people out there said the odor had been going on for a week."

This overflow was not near a water source but water authority officials are still testing a neighboring creek.

The state EPD will review the first seven days of test results from the spills and decide what type of action, if any, to take against the water authority, said Jim Sommerville, a supervisor of the state EPD's permitting, compliance and enforcement program.

"We use that and other things to determine what our response to the spill will be," he said. "...There could be some other violations that occurred related to fecal coliform."

The agency fined the Macon Water Authority $15,000 last month for a February spill at Lake Wildwood. The EPD also is considering possible action against the authority for two spills that occurred last month near the Ocmulgee National Monument.

When there are a number of spills in a short time frame, the EPD also could take action against the authority based on a pattern of problems.

Sommerville said, for example, too many spills related to grease could mean the EPD would ask the authority to look at its grease management plan.

Six of the reported spills this year have been at least partially blamed on grease in the lines.

"It's from people washing dishes, pouring grease down the sinks," Greer said. "It goes in and it cools off."

The dry weather has made the buildup from grease in the lines a little worse than usual, Greer said.

"There's not as much flow in the lines because of the drought," he said. "(The grease) builds up and builds up and builds up until there's a blockage in there."

-- Martin Thompson (, July 11, 2000.

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