Record weekend rainfall that overwhelmed Augusta’s wastewater system pushed about 4.7 million gallons of untreated sewage into Butler Creek and the Savannah River, according to city officials.
“We actually got most of it stopped by 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, but there were still a lot of situations where stormwater got to the sanitary system,” said Allen Saxon, the Augusta Utilities Department’s assistant director for wastewater treatment.
Exceptional rainfall creates flooding that fills storm drains that – in turn – add huge volumes of rainwater to the sewage already flowing to the city’s Messerly Treatment Plant on Doug Barnard Parkway.
Although the excessive flow caused some sewage to bypass the treatment system, it was heavily diluted as it entered a river already swollen with rainfall, he said.
“We realize dilution is not the solution to pollution, but it doesn’t hurt,” Saxon said. City officials have reported the incident to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division and will issue a required public notice of the overage when the figures are final, he said.
The treatment plant pumps and treats about
30 million gallons on an average day, but flows during the weekend accelerated to more than 70 million gallons per day.
“It was 61 million yesterday, and this morning it had dropped to 57 million, so it is coming down,” Saxon said Tuesday.
Because of the spill, city officials will monitor Butler Creek above and below the discharge area for the next 12 months to determine whether the event caused any lingering effects.
Saturday’s storms dumped 4.68 inches of rain at Augusta Regional Airport and 4.95 inches at Daniel Field, according to the National Weather Service.