More than 200,000 gallons of sewage spilled as a result of power problems at two wastewater pump stations during last weekend’s snowstorm, a Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (WSA) official said.
The spills occurred at the Southside Pump Station in Douglasville and the Meadowview Pump Station in Lithia Springs, according to WSA Systems Manager Chip Butts.
WSA estimates 187,500 gallons of sewage spilled from a manhole at the Southside Pump Station, which is located along Anneewakee Creek and the Chapel Hills Golf Course near Pinemont Drive. Another 53,000 gallons spilled at the Meadowview Pump Station off Lee Road on Meadowview Drive.
Both are classified by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division as “major spills,” which Butts said are spills of more than 10,000 gallons of sewage.
Pump stations are sometimes called lift stations. Sewage moves with gravity to lower elevations and pump stations around the county move the wastewater from the lower elevations to higher elevations and onto a wastewater treatment plant.
Butts said the sewage that spilled at the Southside station flowed into Anneewakee Creek, which feeds into the Chattahoochee River. Butts estimated that the manhole at the pump station is about 25 yards from the creek.
“This is probably the biggest spill we’ve had in at least five years,” Butts said of the Southside station spill.
Butts said Southside typically pumps between 2 and 2 ½ million gallons of sewage per day.
He said the Southside station has a backup generator, but that the WSA believes power flickering “caused a piece of equipment” at the pump station controls “basically to burn up.”
He said WSA believes the spill started about 11:15 Saturday morning and an electrician got the pump station repaired 2 hours and 15 minutes later at 1:30 p.m.
Butts said the pump station then operated on its backup generator until power was restored Monday around noon.
Butts said crews cleaned the area around the spill as soon as they could get to it, put signs out warning citizens of the spill and spread lime as a disinfectant. Butts said neither the Chapel Hills Golf Course nor any nearby residents were affected by the Southside spill.
He said the spill also had no effect on the county’s drinking water, which comes from Dog River, west of the spill site. And he said there should be minimal impact on the environment.
He noted that multiple tests are done for a year on the streams affected by sewage spills as required by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. He said that fecal coliform tests done in Anneewakee Creek Tuesday showed a high of 460 units, which is below the 1,000 units EPD allows this time of year.
“The ecosystem is very good at cleaning itself in these situations,” Butts said. “If they’re happening all the time it won’t, but in these situations where it’s very few and far between like this, the ecosystem is pretty good at cleaning itself up. So there’s really no long-term impacts.”
Butts said in a worst-case scenario, there could be fish kills where the sewage causes the oxygen level in the water to drop so fish don’t “have any oxygen to breath essentially.”
But he said it would take much more sewage than either of last weekend’s spills to cause a fish kill and that there hasn’t been one during his seven-year tenure at the WSA.
Farther east, at the Meadowview Pump Station in Lithia Springs, most of the sewage that spilled at the station went into Dry Creek, which feeds into Sweetwater Creek, Butts said.
Butts said it was “purely a power failure” that caused the Meadowview spill.
Butts said the area around the pump station lost power for 24 hours, and that Meadowview, unlike Southside, does not have a backup generator.
“There was really nothing we could do until the power came back on,” Butts said.
Butts said power went out about 8 a.m. Saturday and came back on about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. He said the Meadowview station has some “holding volume” so sewage didn’t actually start spilling until a couple of hours after the outage at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
He said just like at the Southside station, WSA workers cleaned, put up signs and spread lime on the spill area and that no citizens were affected.
Butts said environmental testing results from Dry Creek were not available as of Thursday morning.