Ocmulgee sewage spill raises clean-up concern

The Ocmulgee River is a body of water in Macon where people often go to swim. Small things such as some poorly-disposed grease, or even a tree root, can serve as a great threat to this natural pleasure.
On Sept. 3, a sewage pipe ruptured on South Pine Knoll Drive into a dry creek bed near the Ocmulgee River.
A resident was cutting his lawn and smelled sewage that led him to the creek bed. The dry creek bed had been filled with sewage and was running like a stream.
Because of a communication error, the spill went untreated from 1:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. allowing a
reported 4,860 gallons of sewage to flood the area. It was reported that the spill was cleaned up the next day, but other reports have shown this claim to be untrue.
The Altamaha Riverkeepers, a group based in Darien, Georgia, heard about the spill and began
researching into the matter.
Executive Director Deborah Sheppard wrote a letter to the Macon Water Authority addressing the
matter and the concerns that the group has about the way that spills are documented and handled in Macon.
All of the water systems are connected, and a spill into the Ocmulgee could easily affect the condition of the Altamaha River, which is downstream.
The letter addressed the fact that the spill was not reported in a timely fashion because of the Water Authority. It also took issue with the method for measuring the amount of sewage spilled.
Currently, the Macon Water Authority measures the amount of spillage beginning at the time the spill
is reported to the time the spill stops. This measurement is inaccurate if the spill goes unreported for several hours.
The recent spill had been very obviously going on for a while before its discovery, as the dry creek bed was running with sewage when it was found.
After Sheppard wrote the letter to the Macon Water Authority in response to the recent sewage spill, the Water Authority acknowledged her concerns. They agreed to improve the notification system so that detected spills were treated faster. In addition, they will remain in contact with the Altamaha
Riverkeepers to discuss other methods for measuring the amount of sewage released during spills.
They also agreed to improve education about grease and other substances that cannot go down the drain because they will damage the pipes.
This spill was certainly not the first spill in Macon and it is important that Macon residents are educated in how to detect and report spills.
“There is a long history of sewage problems created by failing infrastructure” Sheppard stated. “It’s an old system and it is something that happens in all old cities.”
Roots from trees pose a threat to these pipes as they grow into the pipes and create blockages along with damage to the aging pipes.
Another major problem are the substances that residences put into their sewage system. Many people pour things like grease down their drain, which causes major blockages in the water system.
Macon Water Authority has launched an aggressive effort to clear the lines, but the grease in the system still causes issues.
Macon Water Authority encourages Mercer students and Macon residents to become educated on what can and cannot go down the drain in order to protect Macon’s water. Also, students should be on the lookout for spills and learn the proper way to report such incidents.