Heavy rainfall causing water levels to rise DeKalb County's sewer system

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The South River usually trickles quietly through south DeKalb County, but after days of heavy rain, the river is literally raging.

"You usually can see all the rocks and the sand bar, but it's been so high lately you can't see that at all," said south DeKalb County homeowner Frank George as he stood along the river bank near Panola Road and Snapfinger Road.

Frank told FOX 5's Portia Bruner he questions what kind of impact all the rain has had on the county's aging sewer system.

"You get all that water, it's got to go somewhere. So, it's going into the sewers and all that garbage and trash is backing it up," said George.

Authorities confirm there were three sewage spills on the county's south side over the weekend.

"Two of those were major spills which means a spill of 10,000 gallons or more. The other spill was minor and they were all in generally the same area," said Maria Houser, who is the director of Environmental Compliance for the county.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond created the position and hired Houser in February 2019 to oversee the management of the consent decree with the EPA and Georgia's EPD.

"When creek levels rise, all that water is out coming into our system. That's extra water going through our system that puts a strain on the lines and its extra water that has to be treated in our system," said Houser, who is an engineer and an attorney by trade.

"The system gets inundated by rainwater and you can only have a certain amount of volume within the system before it looks for an outlet," said Houser.

And in this case of the spill along Snapfinger Creek, the outlet was this large, cone-shaped manhole cover. Flood waters knocked it off of its platform. Crews reset the Saturday and Houser said they will continue to keep an eye on it and the 12 other manhole covers that have been identified as repeat spill areas.

"There are 70,000 manhole covers throughout the county. We know of the 13 that cause issues. We are going to see incremental reductions in spill volumes, so that's what we're looking at as an indication of success. We've already seen progress," said Houser.

Hauser said the county will continue to focus on upgrading the county's aging infrastructure with the $105-million project approved by county commissioners two years ago.

“We are looking at everything. Small cracks in the lines upstream that cause major problems downstream and we're also looking at infiltration and infusion of rainwater into the system. This infrastructure is our top priority," Houser said from her office in the Maloof Administrative Building Wednesday.


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