VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — A south Georgia city has started construction on a $1.8 million basin at its sewage treatment plant that's designed to prevent spills into a river that flows into Florida.
Valdosta city officials broke ground on the project recently at the city's Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The equalization basin is supposed to more than double the amount of untreated sewage that the plant can store during heavy rain events, when rainwater infiltrates sewage pipes. The 7.26-million-gallon basin is supposed to keep raw waste from overflowing into the Withlacoochee River, which eventually feeds into the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Valdosta built the plant, one of two that it operates, in 2016, after overflow problems at an earlier plant resulted in a December 2013 consent order that the city agreed to. But the new plant has continued to have problems. The city cites a December 2018 storm that dumped more than 11 inches of rain over several days, with wastewater flowing into the plant at 10 times its normal 3.5 million gallon daily flow.
“When the plant was built it was designed to hold four times its average capacity. When we had the major rain event back in December 2018, we realized we needed to add extra capacity,” Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse said in a statement.
The city spilled another 7.5 million gallons in December over four days after a contractor failed to reconnect a cable. A series of spills from both of Valdosta's treatment plants dating back to 2014 led the Georgia Environmental Protection Division this spring to fine the city $122,000 and also order a number of improvements.
The new basin is scheduled to be completed in October and is financed by local sales tax money.