Cobb County announces fourth spill of disinfected wastewater into Lake Allatoona

An AI-generated image of a faucet superimposed on a recreational lake

Image created with DALL-E from ChatGPT

By Larry Felton Johnson

For the fourth time in the past few days, Cobb County’s Northwest Water Reclamation Center released disinfected wastewater into Lake Allatoona that did not meet the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s specifications.

The announcement from the county emphasized that drinking water was not impacted by the spill.

When a test result is out of range, the facility phones the results to the EPD, and the county is required to announce the incident as a spill.

Cobb Communications Director Ross Cavitt, in response to the Courier’s inquiry about what specific part of the facility’s test was out of range during a previous spill a few days ago, wrote in an email that the call was placed from the facility to the EPD because of an out-of-range reading for Total Suspended Solids.

“To meet our permit requirements, we test our plant effluent daily for Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Total Suspended Solids, Ammonia, Phosphorus, Dissolved Oxygen, pH, and E. coli.,” Cavitt wrote. “In the lake, after a ‘spill,’ we are required to test for E.coli, pH, and Dissolved Oxygen.”

“Please remember the discharged water had been completely disinfected, so tests show it poses no risk to drinking water supplies,” he wrote.

An article in Wastewater Digest described Total Suspended Solids as follows:

TSS stands for total suspended solids, and refers to waterborne particles that exceed 2 microns in size. Any particle that is smaller than 2 microns, on the other hand, is considered a total dissolved solid (TDS). The majority of total suspended solids comprise of inorganic materials; however, algae and bacteria may also be considered TSS. 

TSS could be anything that floats or “suspends” in water, including sand, sediment, and plankton. When certain water sources are contaminated with decaying plants or animals, the organic particles released into the water are usually suspended solids. While some sediment will settle at the bottom of a water source, other TSS will float on water’s surface or remain suspended somewhere in between. TSS affects water’s clarity, so the higher a water source’s TSS content, the less clear it will be.

Notice Posted by County

Here is the notice posted by the county:

Notice of outfall spill from the Cobb County Water System’s (CCWS) Northwest Water Reclamation Facility.

Marietta – On Tuesday, July 2, 2024, Cobb County Water System’s Northwest Water Reclamation Facility released treated wastewater that did not fully meet the facility’s Standards.

Cobb County Water System’s Northwest Water Reclamation Facility is permitted by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to treat 12 million gallons of wastewater daily. Once treated, the water is released into Lake Allatoona and routinely tested.

EPD classifies the release of treated wastewater that doesn’t meet certain standards as a “spill.” This designation was determined by CCWS on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, after receiving routine compliance sampling results. CCWS previously reported spill conditions on June 26, 2024, June 30, 2024, and July 1, 2024. 

Operations staff continue investigating the cause of plant process anomalies and are making necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with the discharge permit. The effluent flow from the facility into Lake Allatoona was 6.74 million gallons on July 2, 2024. The effluent was disinfected and will not impact drinking water supplies.

CCWS employees followed EPD protocols by promptly reporting the sampling results and are conducting daily water quality testing upstream and downstream of the effluent discharge location in Lake Allatoona. Testing results indicate no impact to the lake. No cleanup or remediation is required.

About the Northwest Water Reclamation Center

The Cobb County Water System’s Northwest Water Reclamation Center is located at 3740 Highway 293 in Kennesaw, in the northwest corner of the county near Proctor Creek.

It treats from the northwest quadrant of unincorporated Cobb County; the cities of Acworth and Kennesaw; and portions of Bartow, Cherokee, and Paulding counties.  

According to the Cobb County Water System web page for the Northwest Water Reclamation Center:

The facility reclaims wastewater, producing reuse-quality water that is either discharged to Lake Allatoona through an underwater diffuser or provided to several urban reuse customers for irrigation purposes.  

Originally built in 1987, the plant was sized to treat 2 million gallons per day (mgd), then upsized to 4 mgd in 1988.  In 1997, the plant capacity was doubled, to a capacity of 8 mgd.  The facility was again expanded in 2008, with an expanded capacity of 12 mgd.