Sanitary Sewer Overflow on St. Simons Island – June 9, 2017

Update 6/12/2017 at 9:41: A map has been added below to indicate the affected area. More details as to the cause of the spill and the results have also been added.

The Brunswick Glynn Joint Water & Sewer Commission, operating under NPDES Permit GA0025313 in accordance with aforesaid permit and DNR Regulation 391-3-6-05 Emergency Actions, hereby make public notification of a wastewater spill that was reported on Friday, June 9, 2017 from an electrical failure at sanitary sewer pumping station 2023.

Date of Spill: 6/9/2017

Time: 10:00 AM

Location of Spill:
Gascoigne Lodge
1000 New Sea Island Road
St. Simons Island, Georgia 31522

Cause of Spill:  An apparent electrical equipment malfunction at sanitary sewer pumping station 2023 at 43 Kings Way caused the sewer system to surcharge and overflow at a manhole at 1000 New Sea Island Road behind apartment 9.

Estimated Volume of Discharge: >10,000 Gallons. Historical flow estimates at this pumping station place the discharge in the area of 10,000 to 20,000 gallons, though the volume of rain over the previous week may have led to a high concentration of ground water in that discharge.

State Waters Discharged: Gascoigne Pond

Corrective Action Taken: JWSC personnel repaired the electrical equipment malfunction at pumping station 2023 at 43 Kings Way and the station was brought back to working order. The JWSC spread lime on the affected area of the shoreline, approximately 6 square feet. The JWSC is also are running two bypass pumps in Gascoigne Pond to aerate the affected receiving waters. The JWSC laboratory will continue to test this area.

Regulatory Compliance: Signs were placed along the immediately affected areas to indicate the presence of a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO). The Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was notified, along with local authorities and the Glynn County Health Department District Environmental Health Manager.

Immediate Results and Investigation: As of 8:44 on Monday morning, June 12, 2017, pumping station 2023 is functioning properly again. The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) communications equipment has been replaced and tested using a ‘known-good’ backup unit. The water in the associated pond where the overflow drained to has been aerated following the discovery of the spill, with staff reacting with the pumping equipment within two hours of responding to the situation. Aeration dissipated the odor nearly immediately. No fish were killed in this event. This was likely due to the fact that much of the overflow was very dilute from rain flow and groundwater inflow and infiltration entering the station.

Our sewer pumping stations transmit failures at the station via SCADA equipment. Under normal circumstances, the crew responsible for monitoring the station for alarms can remotely correct failures. We have staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week that are licensed, certified by the state, trained and qualified to perform routine maintenance, such as the replacement of pumps, antenna, power breakers, electronic circuit boards, and wiring to the electronics. We also have the capability to set float switch points, such as those that trigger the pump to operate and those that trigger high water alarms.

As we do not presently have a licensed electrician on staff, we contract out any primary electrical work from the Georgia Power pole to the main breaker at the station. All points beyond the main breaker at the station are maintained by JWSC staff or Data Flow Systems (DFS), our SCADA hardware and software provider. The JWSC management has approved adding a licensed master electrician in the coming fiscal year, contingent upon budget adoption.

After investigations over the weekend (6/9-6/12), it appears that the remote control communications device, called the Telemetry Control Unit or TCU, malfunctioned. The two submersible pumps at the station did not fail and testing has confirmed that they are in working order, having been replaced with new pumps on or about October of 2016. Burned contacts were cited, which would have caused the TCU to not give the pumps the “run” command. The red alarm light on top of the station, which activates independently from the TCU contacts, did engage. However, an audible horn and alarms to SCADA did not transmit by radio to the on-call staff member. In a certain sense, the redundant alarms failed, as did the TCU, creating the “perfect storm” effect. That doesn’t fully explain the lack of alarms we expected by radio, as the programming logic generally dictates that a fault code would be sent if communications fails. Our present system does not have a feature available that would enable an alarm via SCADA if a pump hasn’t run within a specified period of time.

Staff will be communicating with both DFS and our electrical contractor to determine what caused the failure, whether it was a hardware failure, a power surge, a power phase problem, lightning, etc., and how to minimize the risk of failure in the future. Rest assured that this failure was isolated and there are no indications that any of the other pumping stations have suffered from the same electronics/electrical failure at this time.

Sanitary sewer overflows are not a new occurrence. Aging infrastructure continues to pose challenges. During a reorganization of the Systems Pumping and Maintenance Division in 2014, policies and procedures were updated to more accurately follow EPA and EPD guidelines, and SSOs are being more faithfully declared.

Contact for Any Additional Information:

Kirk Young, Superintendent
Systems Pumping and Maintenance Division
Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission
Phone Number 912-261-7152
Email kyoung@bgjwsc.org

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This notice is being made available immediately to all local print and radio media to allow for publication and notification. A formal advertisement will be run in the Brunswick News at the next regular printing to satisfy the statutory needs to distribute via a local paper of record.