Storm causes Phenix City to dump nearly 7 million gallons of partially treated sewage into Chattahoochee

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Last week when Tropical storm Sally dumped a massive amount of rain onto the Chattahoochee Valley.

And it sent the Phenix City Sewage Treatment facility on State Docks Road into emergency operation.

Nearly 7 million gallons of partially treated sewage was dumped into the Chattahoochee River over a 12-hour period at the Phenix City Sewage Treatment plant on State Docks Road.

A city official tells News 3 it was a situation that could not be avoided because of the heavy rains.

“If you have a heavy enough rainfall any system is going to get overwhelmed,” said Steve Smith, Assistant City Manager and Director of Utilities. “That doesn’t matter if it’s Columbus, Phenix City, Birmingham or anywhere else. If it rains hard enough in a short enough period of time, you have to take emergency measures.”

Columbus and Phenix City got more than 7 and a half inches of rain last Wednesday and Thursday when Sally rolled into the area.

The Phenix City sewage treatment facility treats about 5 million gallons a day. During a 12-hour period, more than 6.8 million gallons flooded through the operation. 

“What we do is bypass the main treatment system,” Smith said. “… It’s not raw sewage. It’s been partially treated. It just doesn’t go through the 100 percent of the full treatment with the trickle filters and digesters and everything. If you let that much flow through at any one time, it would destroy your treatment process.”

The city was required to report the spill to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. And it did. Phenix City officials do not expect to be fined by ADEM for the spill last week.

The partially treated wastewater went into the Chattahoochee just north of Rigdon Park, a couple of miles south of downtown.

It comes as Phenix City is preparing to spend $5.7 million to upgrade the plant and expand treatment capacity.

Columbus had a minor spill in the aftermath of the flooding, according to a spokesman for the Columbus Water Works. “There was a crack in the sewer main on Slade Drive that caused 3,930 gallons of sewage to be dumped into Weracoba Creek. That was reported to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

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