Sewer pipe breach fills Bainbridge Wastewater Plant with river sand

Published 11:54 am Saturday, January 9, 2016

A pipe leading into Bainbridge’s wastewater plant burst yesterday, causing the plant to be filled with dirt and sand from the Flint River.

Last week’s moderate flooding created enough weight to breach a sewer line, located behind Complex 1-Field 8 at the Bill Reynolds Sports Complex. As the water level lowered, the pipe sucked up dirt and fed it directly into the plant.

The plant has been closed since yesterday while workers continue to wash out the sand.

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Wastewater Plant Superintendent Rusty Adams said he and his team have been working all week to keep river water out of the system. The pipe burst yesterday has created a new level of urgency to the situation.

“We didn’t realize where the problem was to begin with,” Adams said. “We know where the main part is now. We’re going to try to get the spot where the breakage is bypassed, get this sand out of here, and we’re going to get this thing up and going again.”

Adams added that the sand and dirt is damaging the motors inside the plant.

Also, Bainbridge’s wastewater plant uses microorganisms to eat the waste. With no new waste coming into the facility, the bugs are essentially starving, city manager Chris Hobby said.

“Right now they are starving because we are not producing new waste for them to eat,” Hobby said. “What Rusty has done is in waste tanks, he is holding waste and pumping oxygen to it. So we have the bugs on life support at this point.”

Workers from Decatur County, Moultrie, Thomasville and Blakely are helping with the city to rinse the plant clean. Blankenship Construction will create a bypass today to seal off the burst sewer pipe.

Hobby said the goal was to get half of the plant up and running as soon as possible while workers continue to clean out the other half.

Officials said the plant should be cleaned out and working again before Bainbridge residents are affected. How long the cleaning process will take is unclear. The biggest problem currently is working around the machinery inside the plant, Adams said.

According to Adams, the shutdown isn’t affecting anybody in the city.

The last time Bainbridge’s Wastewater Plant was shut down was during the 1994 flood.