E. coli bacteria levels surged in the Savannah River around Augusta, Georgia after flooding and wastewater sewer overflows caused by heavy rains.
E. coli bacteria surged more than 10 times safe levels in the Savannah River around Augusta, Georgia after flooding and wastewater sewer overflows caused by heavy rains.
“They are sky high,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, director of the Savannah Riverkeeper.
Multiple manholes overflowed in downtown Augusta with diluted sewage near the river. Testing showed more than 2,000 colony-forming units (CFUs) of E. coli per milliliter of water.
The city reported more than 1.4 million gallons of rain mixed with raw sewage overflowed from manholes and at the wastewater treatment plant in nine major spills, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
Excessive rain entering Augusta city sewage lines overloaded the system and forced diluted sewage out of manholes, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
The mixture flowed to area creeks, which empty into the river. The largest spill was 719,575 gallons released at Augusta Messerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, reported the Augusta Chronicle.
Rainfall amounts ranged from two to five inches.
“There’s no way I’m keeping a six-inch-rain in the pipes,” said Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.
The department must undergo a state sampling protocol with testing for fecal coliform, rather than E coli sampling, according to the Augusta Chronicle. At least three more overflows took place, primarily in the same downtown spots that originally overflowed.
“Normally a two-inch rain we’d be able to keep that in the pipes but we still haven’t recovered completely,” said Wiedmeier.
The city can be fined by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for the spills, but hasn’t been fined in at least six years.
Augusta has spent more than $60 million in storm water utility fee collections on drainage and storm water improvements since 2016, reported the Augusta Chronicle.