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Sewage spills into Big Creek
Utility chief: Wipes likely to blame for clogged line
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Forsyth County News

Between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of raw sewage entered a tributary of Big Creek during a Friday sewer spill near Gatewater Circle.

Cumming Utilities Department Director Jon Heard said the spill likely was the result of a blockage caused by medicated, cleansing and baby wipes, along with personal hygiene products.

"We would recommend against flushing those wipes down the toilet," he said. "The material we pulled out that formed the clog was from non-biodegradable wipes being sold in supermarkets."

The impacted area has been cleaned and lime applied to help reduce the amount of bacteria entering Big Creek, which runs to the Chattahoochee River.

Sewage also affected Big Creek on July 4, when a similar incident occurred.

Though the wipes may be a convenient way to handle a dirty situation, Heard said, they could lead to more cleaning in the end.

"Manufacturers claim they are safe to flush down the commode into the sewer system, but we're finding that's not the case, as evidenced by the last sewage spill."

Blockages also are caused by low-flow toilets, said Heard, who has noticed many of the recent blockages have been from homes built within the past few years.

Most newer homes come with low-flow toilets. While they save on monthly cost, Heard said, they don't produce enough water to keep the pipelines scoured.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division considers a major spill as anything more than 10,000 gallons.
Friday's spill was minor, but can still result in fines as the EPD has a no-tolerance policy for spills into the Chattahoochee basin.

To avoid blockages and spills, Heard urged water customers to dispose of wipes in the trash.

"The rule of thumb for me is if it's not toilet paper, don't put it in the toilet," he said.

The local sewer spill was one of at least two over the weekend in the Lanier watershed.

A sewer line blockage Sunday afternoon in Lula caused more than 3,200 gallons of raw sewage to spill into a tributary of Hagen Creek, which feeds into the Chattahoochee River.

Dennis Bergin, manager of the city in northeastern Hall County, said the incident occurred near the corner of Carter and Athens streets.

"There was a blockage of debris, possibly a root ball (of a tree), about 100 feet past a manhole, which caused sewage to back up," Bergin said.

He said the line ultimately goes to Lula's sewage treatment pond. After workers cleared the blockage, they began checking between other manholes to make sure the rest of the line was clear.

The city notified the EPD.

Debbie Gilbert of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.