JONESBORO — Heavy rainfall over the last several days has challenged the Clayton County Water Authority’s sanitary sewer lines.
According to the National Weather Service, between 7 a.m. Jan. 13 and 7 a.m. Jan. 14, 1.74 inches of rain fell in Jonesboro. That on top of the 2.66 inches of rain that fell Monday has caused at least three major “hydraulic overloads on the gravity mains,” CCWA reported. In other words, the volume of water entering the sewage lines from the rain combined with the typical line usage has caused pipes to overflow, spilling thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater.
Suzanne Brown, Communications & Community Relations manager with the CCWA, said these types of spills can happen when large amounts of rain fall in a short period of time or over the course of several days.
“Heavy rain like this is taxing on any system,” she said. “It’s weather like this we don’t like to see.”
Brown said when a spill is detected crews are dispatched immediately to fix the problem and “mitigate” or clean up the area. She noted that signs are posted in the area of the spill. If it’s in a residential location, surrounding homeowners are notified typically with a door hanger.
The water authority is currently working through a master plan called Project Pipefix to replace aging sewer lines. Some date back to the 1950s. The project will reduce the number of overflows and replace pipes with corrosion resistant materials. CCWA recently began phase 3, spending $18 million in phases 1 and 2. Additionally, a new structured cleaning program was implemented last year to care for the system.
Drinking water remains safe
Despite the sewage spills, Brown said that drinking water in the area remains protected. She explained that pipes carrying raw sewage are separate from drinking water lines.
“We have three main lines — storm sewer, sanitary sewer and distribution sewer,” she said. “The distribution lines are what carry fresh drinking water to our homes.”
If drinking water is contaminated, Brown said residents are immediately notified, sometimes accompanied by a boil water advisory.
“Our drinking water is safe. It’s two totally different pipes removing wastewater and delivering fresh water,” she said.
How you can help
Brown is asking that CCWA customers who see a potential problem, such as an overflowing manhole or clogged catch basin, to report the problem immediately, even if you’re unsure there’s actually something wrong.
“Don’t assume someone else has called or we know about it,” she said. “The quicker we are alerted to a problem, the faster we can dispatch a crew to inspect the area.”
To make a report, call 770-960-5200.
She noted that crews are moving through the county all day inspecting areas that historically experience problems and looking for anything new.
“We’re all in this together. It’s our county,” she said. “Any help we can get we appreciate.”
Reservoirs at full capacity
Despite the trouble the heavy rains are causing, Brown said the water authority’s drinking water reservoirs are now at 100 percent capacity. At the end of last year, many counties in the state were experiencing drought conditions.
“It’s either feast or famine lately,” she said. “But we’re in great shape now and ready for the hot summer ahead.”