It’s a stinky job, but someone is going to have to do it.
Coming up with funds needed to fix problems with Cedartown’s water treatment and sewer systems are up ahead is one discussion the city commission are having tonight starting at 6 p.m. with their latest work session for March.
City Manager Bill Fann said that commissioners will need to work on where they’ll find money in the budget for needed fixes and repairs to several water-based issues within the city, starting with two lift stations that carry gray water away and into treatment plants before delivering it back out into nature.
The problems have been building for a while, with one sitting right on North Main Street where backup pumps have been employed on and off at a lift station near the corner at Lakeview Drive. It’s been the victim of several problems and repairs, Fann said.
Cedartown’s latest lift station problem — and subsequently reported sewage spill — came as workers were forced to clear a baseball that damaged a pump at the lift station on Cave Spring Road. Fann said 4,000 gallons of gray water spilled as workers were forced to shut down the lift station to make the repair and discovered the ball clogging up the pump.
“That one in particular has a lot of infiltration of storm water,” Fann said. “But usually you don’t see something like a baseball.”
It didn’t help the situation at all that backup pumps at that lift station then began to overheat and failed, causing the spill. Fann said the city will likely face a fine from the state’s Environmental Protection Division over the spill, but that isn’t his main concern.
What he does worry about is getting the system working right again, making sure the repairs don’t cost too much and that water is going back out into local streams and creeks as clean as it was when it came out of the ground.
To do that, Fann’s hopes are that grant money can be procured to help with additional upgrades to the city’s water system, but the city will also need to dig into the general fund balance in order to pay for some of the costs. He also is seeking to figure out why electrical problems have shut down the pump on North Main Street as well, pointing to power surges as a potential reason and thus possibly placing responsibility and some of the subsequent replace cost at the door of Georgia Power.
Funds will be needed for parts replacements, but also for new items at Cedartown’s wastewater treatment facility, like new screens that will help filter out trash and other debris that ends up in the combined storm water and sewer system for the city.
A lot of that problem could be avoided by common sense on the part of local residents, and also on officials at assisted living and nursing homes and the Polk County Jail from keeping their residents from flushing items that shouldn’t be in the sewage system.
The city’s February newsletter called on residents to think before they flush, avoiding items like baby and adult wipes, feminine products, diapers, grease and more end up in the sewage system.
A lot of time, city workers are forced to clean out clogs caused by things that aren’t supposed to go down a drain from lift stations at inconvenient times, or are forced to fish it out with a net at the wastewater treatment plant. They also form clogs in sewer lines called “fatbergs” or “grease logs” that when pressure forms behind them can cause breakage and damage to pipes.
Taking an approach that limits what goes into the toilet or down sink and shower drains at home is a first step for the community to help the city save money on wastewater treatment costs, but it is only part of the battle.
The rest of it will come down to whether the city can find the funds to make needed improvements to ensure water keeps flowing the way it should.