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SEWER WOES: City has 14 reported spills over 12 months

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    Effluent spewing from manholes has been an issue for property owners on Turnerwoods Road when it rains.

The City of Gray received a proposed Consent Order from the Environmental Protection Division last week that when finalized will require the city to fix sewer line issues that that have plagued property owners along its sewer easements for years.

Assistant City Superintendent Cheyenne Morgan said he has been working with Jody Sapp and

Tilden Bembry with the West Central District Office of the EPD that includes Jones County.

Morgan was appointed as Gray’s Assistant Superintendent in June of 2020, and one of his first duties was to deal with a letter the city received from the EPD about the December 2019 and February 2020 sewer spills on Turnerwoods Road that had not been properly reported.

Morgan explained that the proposed consent order is similar to a draft and it is not final until it is accepted by the city. That acceptance starts the clock on the repairs.

He said he believes the action by the EPD was because of the number of incidents the city has had, rather than the amount of the spills. Gray has had 14 reported spills and/or overflows in the past 12 months.

Morgan said consent orders usually give the entities involved a year to come into compliance, but the city is asking for more time. He said that is because of the amount of work that needs to be done.

The proposed order states that the city could be liable to civil penalties for the violations in the amount of $50,000 a day for each day the violation continues, but the order includes a negotiated settlement of $3,677. Morgan said he is asking that that the EPD allow that amount to put toward the cost of the repairs to the system.

The assistant superintendent said the city is purchasing a camera and root clearing system so as many repairs as possible can be done in-house. He said it is his intention to clean and camera every sewer line in the city.

Morgan said the knowledge and experience of City Superintendent Frank Ross would be invaluable in locating all the lines. He said the process starts with a jet truck shooting water in the lines, followed by the camera. If roots are found in the pipes, they can be cut out at that time.

Depending on the condition of the pipes, Morgan said they can use a process called pipe bursting that actually disintegrates the old pipe, and simultaneously replaces it with a new pipe. He said the old pipe can even be replaced with a larger pipe, which he said needs to be done in several areas.

Morgan said the pipes in the easements along Turnerwoods Road would be the first priority and next the lines from there to the wastewater treatment plant.

Morgan said the city has submitted its response to the proposed order and is waiting to hear back from the EPD.

“I inherited a challenge but I’m going to take care of it,” he stated.

12 months of spills

• Feb.25, 2020: two sewage spills reported near 247 Turnerwoods Road. Spills occurred Dec. 19, 2019, and Feb. 6, 2020

• March 2, 2020: facility had 1,000-gallon sewage overflow from manhole behind James St. due to blockage

• March 5, 2020: facility had 500-gallon sewage overflow from manhole behind James St. due to blockage

• March 20, 2020: facility had 2,000-gallon sewage overflow from manhole on Maggie Califf due to blockage

• May 14, 2020: facility had 4,025-gallon sewage overflow from Glover Ln. lift station due to electrical issue

• June 15, 2020:facility had 24,150-gallon sewage overflow on Dolly St. d ue to force main break

• June 30, 2020: facility had 2,250-gallon sewage spill from the Woodland Springs Lift Station due to an electrical issue

• July 29, 2020:facility had 425-gallon sewage spill from manhole on Dolly St due to a grease blockage

• Aug. 22, 2020:facility had a 1,014-gal Ion sewage spill from Stonebooke lift station due to faulty check valve

• Sept. 9, 2020: facility had 611-gallon sewage spill from Stonebrooke lift station due to vacuum pump malfunction

• Nov.28, 2020:facility had 1,597-gal Ion sewage spill from Stonebrooke lift station due to pump failure

• Dec. 23, 2020:facility had 4,700-gallon sewage spill from manhole on Dolly St. due to grease blockage

• Feb.12, 2021:facility had a 5,250-gallon sewage spill from easement behind 247 Turnerwoods Dr. due to blockage

• Feb.13, 2020: facility had 8,175-gallon sewage spill from easement behind 247 Turnerwoods Dr. due to hydraulic overload