Contractor error causes 7+ million gallon sewage overflow in Valdosta, officials say

Published: Dec. 10, 2019 at 9:41 AM EST
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Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

December 10, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A big clean up is underway in Valdosta after crews discovered a manhole overflowed with millions of gallons of sewage.

The spill was discovered Monday morning. After being notified by the City of Valdosta, health departments from Hamilton County and Madison County issued public safety concerns, warning communities not to go in to the Withlacoochee River.

On Tuesday city officials said the overflow was caused after a contracted employee was working on improvements to the notifications at one of the lift stations. The company, Electrical Machine Controls, worked on the SCADA systems. That system is meant to send out notifications when irregularities take place at the lift stations, before a spill occurs.

Officials said the employee failed to reconnect a cable after working on the system. That caused the pumps not to turn on, and resulted in more than 7.5 million gallons to overflow from the manhole near Sugar Creek.

City staff said the manhole is located behind Target, and is connected to one of the city's main lift stations in Remerton. That is located near Sugar Creek, which eventual flows in to the Withlacoochee River.

Utilities Director Darryl Muse said had that employee reconnected the cable, the machines would have worked fine.

"It is very frustrating," Muse said. "We spend millions and millions of dollars to address spills that we've had in the past, and I think we've done a really good job. We were on a path to not have a significant release in the city this calendar year, after the major event that we had in December of 2018."

Through the SPLOST passed by voters last month, an additional $40 million of investments to the city waste collection system over the next five years.

As for the contracted employee, city officials said they are still working with the company, gathering information, and have not released a statement.

The city will be required to sample the water near the spill for the next 365 days. That sampling began Tuesday.

By: WALB News Team

December 10, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) — A contractor error resulted in an approximately 7,592,910 gallon sewage discharge into a manhole into Sugar Creek, according to city officials.

On Monday, Valdosta officials were notified that staff at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant that flow into the plant was cut in half over the past few days.

Personnel found that a contractor was working and failed to reconnect a cable at the Remerton Lift Station.

City officials said in a release that “all appropriate regulatory and public health agencies have been notified (and) warning signs have been posted at the spill location and downstream to advise the public to avoid any contact with this waterway for the next seven days.”

The issue was resolved Monday morning, according to the city.

“Sewer spills are not acceptable at any time,” city officials said in a release. “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. The city continues its ongoing efforts to improve the infrastructure of the sewer system to eliminate these issues in the future. Improving our sewer system has and will continue to be a main priority.”

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