Work underway to clear flooded pump station in Cobb County

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Untreated wastewater poured into Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee River in Cobb County after a pump at a water treatment facility flooded on New Year's Eve. Now, crews are working around the clock to fix the issue. 

Officials said Thursday that Cobb's Water System has developed a strategy to clear the flooded pump station and relieve pressure on the South Cobb Tunnel. The water system is working with a contractor to find a supply of additional pumps that will be positioned at a nearby pump shaft, which will allow crews to pull water out of the flooded facility to stop the overflow. 

The pumping will start as soon as possible, officials said. 

"Folks at the South Cobb Water Reclamation facility noticed the numbers were way out of whack. Suddenly the pumps shut down," said Cobb County spokesman Ross Cavitt. 

County officials said there's a tunnel that goes down 200 feet that houses the pumps. Something went terribly wrong and it flooded taking out the pumps and the backup pumps. 

"Why did it happen, what gave way underneath? We just don't know at this point until we can get down to it," said Cavitt.

Untreated wastewater as well as run-off from streets and storm drains is brought into the pumping facility at the water reclamation facility, where it is treated and discharged into the Chattahoochee.  Now it's just going straight into the river. 

"How much wastewater and storm water has been discharged we just don't know and we don't know when we'll be able to stop it either," said Cavitt.

The county has brought in pumps from other states to try to pump the water out of the tunnel so they can assess the damage, figure out what went wrong and how to repair it.  The heavy rain we're expecting through the end of the week is only exacerbating the problem. 

"The continued rainfall is only going to make the challenge of getting the water out of there that much more of a steep hill to climb," said Cavitt.

The county is working with the Environmental Protection Division to minimize problems downstream.  They've also put up signs along the river and nearby trails, warning people to keep out.  

The county does emphasize, that this does not affect the drinking water. 

"This has nothing to do with the drinking water, that's a completely separate system, not at all affected by this," said Cavitt.