Heavy rains overwhelmed wastewater plant, caused spill

 

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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