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City spills treated wastewater into Elbow Swamp
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Richmond Hill has reported its first “major spill” of the year at its wastewater treatment plant at Sterling Creek.
According to a press release issued Thursday, more than 1 million gallons of treated wastewater was discharged May 17 and 18 from the facility’s constructed wetland into Elbow Swamp.
The spill is considered major by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division because discharge limits for biochemical oxygen demand exceeded the plant’s permit by 50 percent.
“The spill is a result of the treatment facility being at its designed capacity,” the release stated.
Major spills, such as this one, are nothing new for the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which has been operating at capacity for several years.
The city is currently in the design process of a $22 million plant expansion and upgrade, which could include urbane reuse water, and is expected to be finished as early as 2014.
The 500-acre, all-natural wastewater treatment facility near Sterling Creek was built in 1997 and doubles as a wildlife sanctuary.
It was responsible for a number of spills last year in which treated wastewater exceeding discharge limits flowed from the plant’s wetlands into Elbow Swamp.
The facility was designed to treat 1.5 million gallons of wastewater per day but – to catch up with and help maintain the city’s growth – will be expanded to treat 4 million gallons per day.

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