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Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin gets nervous every time it starts to rain.
Not because wet weather is unpleasant, but because the rain tends to cause raw sewage spills from the McLeod at Hood Street pump station.
Just last week, more than four inches of rain in one day overloaded the pump station’s capacity, causing an estimated 3,600 gallons of
sewage to spill.
“It’s not good,” Bergin said. “The pump station is about worn out.”
The Hood Street pump is the oldest of the city’s five pump stations and soon will be replaced by a $191,000 pump station, expected to arrive Dec. 18.
“I’ll sleep a whole lot better when this thing is done,” Bergin said.
Pump station failure was not such an issue when a years-long drought meant rain was scarce.
“It hadn’t been this big of a problem, but this year we’ve experienced some significant rainfall,” Bergin said.
Vickie Yarbrough, an environmental compliance specialist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said Lula’s frequent sewage spills have been minor and have not caused enough damage to warrant monetary penalties.
The Georgia EPD considers spills less than 10,000 gallons minor, Yarbrough said. Spills are also much easier to clean if they happen on land.
“The spills around that pump station have been on the ground and aren’t that serious,” Yarbrough said.
Sewer spills into water are more dangerous.
“If it goes into the water it’s nearly impossible to clean up,” Yarbrough said.
Cities are required to report all sewage spills, regardless of size and location, to the EPD.
“It’s a public health hazard,” Yarbrough said. “It can percolate down to the groundwater and get into drinking water.”
Lula is not alone. Yarbrough said minor sewage spills are not unusual, especially in small towns.
“It is common with older systems,” she said. “We see it in a lot of small towns without much money.”
But unlike many other towns, Lula will soon replace the old sewer equipment and has started work on a new, state of the waste water treatment plant that will soon make the sewage spills a thing of the past.
“Lula is being proactive,” Yarbrough said. “It’s going to be a really good plant and they’ve got a very good site.”