With more than 100 sanitary sewer overflows since August 2004, a $45,402 fine could have been much higher had Augusta Utilities not agreed to address the overflows' cause, according to Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.
The latest, an April 28 overflow, sent 1,920 gallons of rainwater containing raw sewage into a Goshen Plantation pond.
Wiedmeier said about 80 percent of the overflows are caused by roots, grease buildup or a combination of the two.
As part of a consent order negotiated with Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the department will adopt a five-year program of preventive maintenance of underground sanitary sewer lines, instead of simply treating backups when they occur, he said.
"It's a culture change," he said. "One of the things we're doing in the restructuring is dedicated preventive maintenance crews."
Augusta Utilities is consolidating divisions and shedding some management positions as part of the government restructuring.
By strengthening root control and developing a formal program to regulate grease discharges, the department was able to lower the fine, but faces a $2,000 monthly penalty if it does not adhere to the plan, he said.