Oconee County reported two new sewage spills to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on Friday, one of which was classified as a “major spill” and involved the discharge of sewage into Calls Creek.
The smaller spill was into McNutt Creek behind Creekside subdivision, which is on the east side of Jimmy Daniell Road at the county line.
The spill into Calls Creek was at the troubled Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant on Durhams Mill Way north of Watkinsville, where a separation of pipe allowed sewage to flow for five minutes into the creek.
Because the Calls Creek spill is being treated as major, the county is required to post signs in the affected area and to place a notice in The Oconee Enterprise, the county’s designated legal organ.
The notice in the paper is scheduled to appear in the paper’s June 4 edition. As of this evening, the notice does not yet appear on the county’s web site.
Timing Of Spills
According to the reports filed with the EPD on Friday, both spills occurred at 9:30 a.m. that day.
The spill at McNutt Creek resulted from a clog in the sewer line, forcing 300 to 600 gallons of sewage from a manhole.
|Thomas, Right, At BOC 5/26/2015|
The leak lasted about 30 minutes, according to the report.
After the blockage was removed, crews applied lime at the site, removed debris, and placed signs at the site to notify the public, the report states.
Initial sampling of McNutt Creek indicated that fecal coliform levels in the creek were below the permitted effluent levels set for sewer plants, the report states.
Steve Walker from the Athens office of the EPD told me this afternoon that he had been called somewhere between 10 and 11 a.m. on Friday regarding the spill at the Calls Creek Plant.
He visited the plant later in the day, he said.
The county estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 gallons of sewage escaped the break in the pipe, which was under pressure.
“The flow was fast and substantial, but very difficult to quantify,” Oconee County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas wrote in the report filed with the EPD.
Because the amount of flow was hard to estimate, Thomas said the county decided to treat it as a “major spill,” which requires the publication of the notice of the spills and specification of monitoring procedures.
Thomas told the EPD the county has begun monitoring the creek for fecal coliform and other indications of contamination and will continue to do so daily for a week.
After that, monitoring will be weekly for a month and then monthly for a year, Thomas said.
“Initial sampling of the creek indicated no measurable adverse effects” of the spill, Thomas reported.
Davis Revealed “Issue”
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis told the public at the BOC meeting on Tuesday that the county “had been made aware of an issue” at the Calls Creek plant a month earlier and had responded by self-reporting to the EPD about the problem.
Davis, did not identify the problem, but he said that the county had hired a consultant who had reviewed the operation of both the Calls Creek plant and the county’s other sewage treatment facility, the Rocky Branch Land Application site.
Though Davis did not say it, that report was very critical of the operation of both plants, saying that the Calls Creek plant is not properly managing solids in the water that is processed and that “several equipment items necessary for effective operation have not been operational for a year or more.”
The report said similar problems exist at the Rocky Branch Land site and that both facilities are in need of “effective management” and a change of operating procedures.
Thomas Before BOC
The county has accepted the resignations of Gene Price, wastewater supervisor, and Anthony Occhipinti, maintenance supervisor, though the latter resigned before the investigation leading to the report had begun.
Utility Department Director Thomas is scheduled to be back before the BOC tomorrow night, though there is no indication he will be questioned about the problems at the sewage plants or about the spills.
The agenda calls for approval of a $1.3 million contract for construction of the McNutt Creek Sewer Connector, a line downstream from the site of the spill on Friday morning.
The item is on the consent agenda, meaning it already has received tentative approval of the Board of Commissioners.
The Board also is scheduled to give a second reading to and hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the county’s Water and Wastewater Systems Ordinance, which governs operation of the Utility Department.
That meeting, which also includes final reading and approval of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, begins at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
Note: An earlier version of this story said the notice would be in the June 5 edition of the Enterprise. That is the date used in the EPD report by Thomas. The paper comes out on Thursdays. I should have caught the error and used the correct date. I apologize for the error.
Chris Thomas cannot effectively manage Public Utilities.
And now Melvin and Thomas want $1.3 million contract for construction of the McNutt Creek Sewer Connector??!! What the heck?
Commissioners: Show some darn backbone, and publicly ask Mr. Thomas why and how his department was allowed to function so ineffectively show the past two years. Ask him why he should be allowed to continue in his position. Ask Melvin if Mr. Thomas is capable of performing his duties in a manner that the residents of Oconee deserve.
Melvin, this is much more than an "issue"!!
We;; said, Anonymous.
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