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Sewage spill actually lasted 13 days
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The major spill reported as ongoing last week at Richmond Hill’s wastewater treatment plant near Sterling Creek occurred longer than previously thought.
According to a press release issued Thursday by the city, the spill that began May 17 continued through May 30, and a total of more than 10.8 million gallons of treated wastewater has flowed from the facility’s constructed wetlands into Elbow Swamp.
City Manager Mike Melton said last week the spill is more of a “permit exceedance,” as no additional treated wastewater has flowed into the swamp. The state considers the event a “major spill” because the wastewater exceeded the facility’s permit limits for biochemical oxygen demand by more than 50 percent.
Melton also said last week he expects the facility to remain out of compliance for some time because it is operating at its designed capacity.
The city has plans for a $22 million plant expansion and upgrade, which could include urbane reuse water, and is expected to be finished as early as 2014. Melton said all the necessary documents and reports for the design of the new facility have been submitted to EPD for state approval and that plans are currently on schedule.
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.  
Under a current consent order with the state, the city has to pay $500 for each month a parameter, like biochemical oxygen demand, exceeds permit limits.

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