As work continues on getting the South Cobb Water Reclamation Facility fully functional again, Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce gave a video update describing the crisis, and displaying onsite footage of the work.
“I think it’s important that we bring the people up to date on what’s going on down there. They’ve been reading things in the media about the spill not having an impact on the drinking water, and that’s always a good thing,” Boyce said in the video conversation with county Communications Director Ross Cavitt.
“But I think it’s also important that we understand the magnitude of the challenge we’re facing down there,” he said.
The video showed the above-ground tank where the failure occurred,
“There’s about a hundred feet of water in there,” Boyce said, “and there are two big cylinders, and the inner cylinder is the one that’s supposed to hold all the water. Somehow something failed at the bottom of that cylinder, and it dumped water into the outside cylinder, so now there’s water in that well, and that’s the dry well, and it’s supposed to be dry, but there’s a hundred feet of water in there.”
“So we have found a way to at least contain the amount of water that’s coming in there, so it’s not rising or anything, but unfortunately when it failed it pushed water back into the system, and the pressure has to go somewhere, and it came out of manhole covers down by Nickajack Creek … right next to the Chattahoochee.”
He showed white residue on the ground, which he said showed the magnitude of the spill.
“That’s kind of fertilizer, but it’s not stuff we put there intentionally,” he said.
Boyce said crews were using skimmers to remove waste from Nickajack Creek, and that the employees had found a way to divert water through a construction shaft using three large pumps.
He said the reason that Fulton County Airport had to be shut down periodically during the work was the height of the construction cranes used to drop the pumps underground and keep the hose straight.
Are water and waste still flowing into the creek and river?
“There is no longer any kind of waste water being dropped into Nickajack Creek or into the Chattahoochee. All of that flow coming out of the system is now being pumped out of the construction shaft, and being directed around the shaft that failed, directly into the water treatement plant, and being treated, and we’re back to normal flows there.”
He said it isn’t known how much waste was dumped into Nickajack Creek and the Chattahoochee.
Boyce said the problem was not due to the age of the infrastructure, and the county is trying to figure out what happened at the bottom of the well, and why the failure escalated at such a rate that it overwhelmed the pumps that were already down there.
“We had pumps and backup pumps. But the failure was so large and so rapid that it overwhelmed the pumps and got into the motors.”