The largest of those spills occurred in March 2012, when an estimated 15,000 gallons of sewer water went into Poorhouse Creek southeast of Dobbins Air Force Base, said Bob Snelson, director of Marietta Water.
“It was a blockage in the pipeline, and when we went in to access the manhole to use our water jet device to blow that blockage out of the way, there were some other complications,” Snelson said.
The area in question is in a creek bed off Cobb Parkway that was difficult to move heavy machinery into, he said.
The state defines anything over 10,000 gallons as a major spillage, Snelson said.
“Of that eight that we reported in that year’s time, that was the only one classified as such,” he said. “The rest of them were minor spills, from 800 to 1,500 gallons.”
The last time Marietta was fined for a series of sanitary sewer spills was in June 2012, when it received a $5,500 fine for eight spills between May 2011 and January 2012, Snelson said.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair, who serves as the City Council’s liaison on the Marietta Board of Lights and Water, the body that governs Marietta Water, said the city takes such spills seriously.
“We take every spill very seriously and make every endeavor to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that’s what we’re doing,” Sinclair said.
“That being said, the EPA knows that it happens, and they’ve set up a method to make it miserable for you when it happens by fining you to get you not to do it again.”
Snelson said sewer pipes connecting to apartment complexes can be particularly problematic.
“Around apartment complexes, we have a lot of problems with grease because of the practice of people that live in the apartments,” Snelson said. “If they’ve been cooking something, let’s say bacon, where you have a grease product as a residue of cooking the meal, a lot of times they just dump it down the sink. And what happens is after a while it will coagulate with other quantities and will turn into what we call a grease ball, which is literally a huge mass of grease that’s just coagulated from the collection of these individual deposits in a line. Frankly, it’s pretty dadgum gross.”
Snelson said the fine is based on a state formula.
“$7,250 dollars is not a small fine, but then again I’ve seen some municipals get fined up to $1 million,” he said. “Atlanta had problems with that some years ago when they were trying to deal with their sewer breakdown.”
In the sewer industry, Marietta’s eight spills for the year is considered minor, he said.
“I can tell you seven spills is our benchmark,” he said. “We try to have seven or less within a one-year period. Obviously we failed to meet that seven. We had eight. But when you look at the industry standard, that’s very minor.”
In addition to the spill at Poorhouse Creek, the other seven spills that occurred over the last year were at Fairground Street by North Marietta Parkway, Blackwell Lane by Cherokee Street, Cobb Parkway by North Marietta Parkway, Smithstone Road near Powers Ferry Road, Commerce Drive south of Fairground Street, Surrey Lane at Bellemeade, and Brookline Drive off Terrell Mill Road.