by: Aaron Diamant Updated:CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. —
The Clayton County Water Authority faces another big state fine after raw sewage leaked into local creeks.
A proposed state order follows a recent string of nearly two dozen sewage spills that could cost customers $15,000, while Panther Creek is still recovering from yet another raw sewage spill.
"The kids, the environment, that's what worries me the most," said Ashley McAllister who lives near Panther Creek.
Four leaks since last October have sent thousands of gallons of sewage into the creek. The latest one in April was upstream of several neighborhoods and a playground.
"You never know. Somebody might get sick," McAllister said.
Nearly two dozen sewage spills over the last year into several
waterways led the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to propose that fine.
"It does sound like a lot, and we're not happy about it," said Clayton County Water Authority General Manager P. Michael Thomas. "We're going to do everything we can to minimize (the leaks)."
Thomas blamed those leaks on tree roots and grease buildup in the pipes.
"It's something that we're constantly battling," Thomas said.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant dug through state records and found the Water Authority has already paid more than $300,000 in fines for sewage
spills over the last 10 years. Customers picked up the tab.
"The money that's getting spent on the fines should be used to fix the problem that the fines are being caused by," said customer Josh Beckhom.
Thomas says the
authority already spends millions of dollars every year on an aggressive maintenance program and actively looks for leaking sewer lines.
"We're putting every effort we can into trying to make sure we have none, but that may not be practical," admitted Thomas.
Thomas said a team of inspectors
looks at 30 miles of pipe every month. Despite the spills, the Clayton County Water Authority's maintenance program is ranked among the best in the state and has won several industry awards.