Heavy rains overwhelmed wastewater plant, caused spill

Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 12:38 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 1:29 AM
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Three inches of rainfall last Thursday overwhelmed Augusta’s largest wastewater treatment plant with stormwater and pushed 3.3 million gallons of diluted sewage into Butler Creek.

According to a public notice issued Monday by the Augusta Utilities De­part­ment, the flow to the Messerly Plant on Doug Barnard Park­way increased sharply about 4 p.m. and exceeded the plant’s pumping capacity by 8:30 p.m.

The excess flow of highly diluted wastewater went into a channel connected to Phin­izy Ditch, which empties into Butler Creek above its confluence with the Sa­van­nah River. The overflow was halted by 9:15 a.m. Friday.

At the height of the rainfall, plant officials reported flow rates in excess of 65 million gallons per day – well above the plant’s normal rate of 30 million gallons per day and above the plant’s maximum permitted level of 46.1 million gallons per day.

Last year, city officials replaced one of the plant’s eight main pumps with a higher-capacity model as part of efforts to avoid such overflows.

“We have already begun the process of ordering a second higher-capacity pump for the system to further improve capacity and reliability,” said Al­len Saxon, the department’s assistant director for facility operations.

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newshound1 02/11/13 - 02:09 pm
Wastewater Spill

What happened to getting rid of the combined sewers that cause these surges? The solution to pollution is NOT dilution...a spill is a spill! When county employees were in charge of the plant spills like this were NOT "watered down"...(pun certainly intended)...A larger pump is a bandaid...get to the root cause! Put the private company operating this facility under the exact same microscope that the county employees were under....fair is fair!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/11/13 - 02:20 pm
Missed It

That's funny, I guess I missed the TV News stories and Chronicle stories about all the flooding this three-inch rainfall caused in Hyde Park last Thursday.

Could it be we don't really need that 40-acre retention pond we are being asked to build?

Chigger Hill Man
Chigger Hill Man 02/11/13 - 07:38 pm
I don't think

I'll be fishing in Butler Creek anytime soon.

TrulyWorried 02/11/13 - 09:48 pm

at a brand new waste water treatment plant. This plant has not been in operation too long and the 3"of blessed rain (yes blessed) caused the overflow? Did someone not do his proper math in configuring what would take place with a heavy rain. We have not had a heavy rain in so many years that folks probably thought there is none. We need every drop and more than we have been blessed with during the past few days. Some of the dried up ponds actually show a little moisture - a miracle in itself - after so many years of drought. Another pump? More money out of our pockets? Can't anything be done right the first time in this county.

woodymeister 02/12/13 - 11:40 am

While it seems that things were not done correctly when sizing the new system, you must take into account the economy of scale. An extra 25% capacity would have cost much more than it did. Most taxpayers that pay attention to such things would have likely (and be justified) ask why we would spend that much money just in case we see a surge in flow due to high rains.

In addition, one might remember that the wetlands that the overflow travelled through was once the only waste treatment in existence. The vegitation (reeds, grasses, etc.) all naturally move toxins before the water reaches the river.

I do not work for the city or the private company that operates the current facility, but I understand why it was built as is. If you didn't want to pay for more pumps during the design phase, I can't imagine you want to now.

soapy_725 02/12/13 - 11:44 am
The root cause is that the storm water system and

the sanitary sewer system are mixed at several points in the "water processing issue". Out dated and never maintained sewer systems are the issue. Not the rain. Just like the rain taxation. Blame the problem on someone without a voice. Blame it on something other than mismanagement of facilities and TAX REVENUE. Where did the money go for decades collected to maintain a sewer system? In someone's pocket. New sewer plants, now that is a different issue since construction involves federal funding.

All of the water collected comes into a common pit. It has been that way since the plant opened and employees of a certain unnamed detergent plant monitored the influent and effluent of the facility. You would not believe what enters that plant. Fetuses for one thing.

Total releases to the river are common. Always have been. Unreported and unnoticed. Oxygen robbing chemicals kill the plant's necessary bacteria and shut down the plant. Everything goes to the river. There isn't a surge tank, unless you count the swamp.

Just one more elephant hiding in the ARC commission meeting room. All of the ARC politicians hoping the elephant does not pass gas.

The storm water runoff could be bypassed on a regular basis if the ARC knew which was which.

soapy_725 02/12/13 - 11:47 am
Atlanta is facing the same problem.

But they are not hiding the problem. They are looking a new technology such as plastic liners for decaying sewers.

mooseye 02/12/13 - 12:04 pm
There is the problem

Tax payers don't want to shell out for something they might need in the future. Lets just spend enough to get by now and our children can fork out twice as much for the same thing later.
Its like the highway system. By the time the money and paperwork goes threw to add a lane for a busy stretch of road, it needs three lanes added.
The government is a paradox in life. They do everything they can to act like they are using our tax dollars wisely while wasting more than any private business every could survive.

resident 02/12/13 - 04:40 pm
It is easy to see

I have worked in this area before (not here but up north) What I see is an awful lot of pockets being lined. You have the ability to store rainwater influx in ponds then pump them down but for some reason the ones that used to be along the Savanah River are not used for this???? There are plenty of places this kind of runoff can go settle as it needs to then siphon the water off treat and release it. The sludge if analyzed I am sure can then be treated or potential sources of contaminates identified and dealt with correctly. This concept is not new come on Augusta pull your head out and stop snubbing your nose. The North South War was over a long time ago. This is the United States...Look to others they have figured this stuff out before..Not everything is new..Yes I am from the norther part of the US originally and I can see this snubbing going on all the time. The north does it as well but that is a different story I live down here now...FIX it and stop ignoring the facts...Same thing goes for propane usage in vehicle or Natural gas..come one there are better ways to do stuff and stop this crap of not really working on stuff and punching the clock and not really working. I see standing around..They drive 4 vehicles for 4 different people on Ft Gordon. No sense of savings..They stand around and talk or smoke.

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