Weekend rain causes sewage spill in Valdosta

Valdosta sewage spill
Heavy rain causes sewage spill

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The City of Valdosta announced the heavy rain during weekend storms led to a sewage spill at the Withlacoochee plant Sunday evening.

According to city officials, the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant identified a sewage spill around 6 p.m.

“We’re capable of handling about 30 million gallons. In a nutshell, we got above 30 million gallons and that excess water overflowed," said Valdosta Utilities Director, Darryl Muse.

The city said the plant has a “normal average daily flow of 3.5 million gallons (MG), this past weekend, the influent flow peaked at more than 32 MG—ten times the normal rate.”

Officials said the overflow spilled into a nearby waterway and onto plant property, which is located over one and a half miles from the banks of the Withlacoochee River.

According to the city, the spill was caused by the large amounts of rainfall received within a 24-hour period, which resulted in storm water infiltration and inflow entering the sanitary sewer system and exceeding the capacity of the system.

Plant officials say most treatment plant systems will be overcome by such large flow.

“Just building something to handle a hundred million gallons of water is sometimes, often, not practical," said Muse.

The plant flow peaked at 32 million gallons and caused a spill into the Withlacoochee River. The city said it will not be able to get an accurate number of gallons spilled until the water recedes.

Sewer spills are not acceptable at any time. It has been the city’s top priority to prevent them all through the construction of the new WWTP and the Force Main, as well as the Lift Station Rehab Program, Smoke Testing Program, Annual Manhole Rehab Program, and the ongoing River Sampling Program that tests waters before, during and after major rain events.
Valdosta Public Information Officer Ashlyn Becton

“The creeks overflowed their banks in most cases. The streets were flooded. That water made it’s way into the sewer system and our systems pumped that water to the treatment plant and it was more water than the treatment plant was able to store,” said Muse.

Muse said that although there was some sewage, majority of the spill was storm water.

“You know it is mixing with about 10 percent of wastewater. So, we don’t want to sugarcoat it and say there wasn’t an effect. There was an effect," said Muse.

Plant officials say that they won’t be sure exactly what that effect is until the water recedes, but they are looking to city council for additional upgrades.

“The system did what it was supposed to do. It found it’s way to the treatment plant, but it was just so much flow getting to the treatment plant that it overcame design capacity of the plant," said Muse.

The plant was rebuilt, the infrastructure upgraded, and now they’re requesting additional software and extra generators.

“It will tell the treatment plant that I’m about to send you 500,000 gallons of water and it should be there in 20 minutes so the treatment plant operators, who are there 24 hours a day, can start to make adjustments to the treatment plant so they’ll be better prepared to accept that," said Muse.

City hall is expected to discuss the possible additions tonight at their work session.

The council will vote on the additions at the upcoming meeting on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

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