Flooding damages Valdosta's Waste Water Plant

By Robin Jedlicka - bio | email

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Waste water treatment is something we all take for granted--until faced with the potential of having it back up into our homes.

That would have been the case for more than two-thirds of Valdosta over the weekend, if not for some dedicated workers.

The protective berm at Valdosta's Waste Water Treatment Plant was almost overtaken by the Withlacoochee River, which flows about half of a mile from the plant.  The Withlacoochee rose twenty-eight feet, while the flood stage is just thirteen feet.

The water would have compromised the city's sewer system, which is 287 miles long.  Volunteers from local neighborhoods, Valdosta State University, and Moody Air Force Base helped city workers build the berm up higher to prevent that from happening.

"It took over the dam we had originally. We had to build the dam up another six to eight feet," says Eddie Black, the plant's superintendent.

Valdosta's Waste Water Plant was designed to treat between eight and twelve million gallons of water per day.  The weekend's flooding brought flows of more than twenty-five million gallons.

Henry Hicks, Valdosta Utilities Director, says "It overwhelmed the facility, hydraulically.  We couldn't treat it. The flows are down to about 16 million right now."

Currently, the plant is only 20% operational--enough to keep the city's waste water emptying properly.  If the pumping station HAD been flooded, "It would have been catastrophic," says Black.  "If we hadn't had the berm in place, and built it up, 80% of the people in Valdosta would have had no way to flush their toilets, take baths, or wash their close."

While several motors and pumps, along with the chlorination and de-chlorination systems, will have to be replaced, it's comforting to know the city's waste water has somewhere--besides our homes--to go.

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