Floating in the Flint: What caused multiple sewage spills at Lift Station 26?


    What caused various sewage spills at lift station 26? / Photo: Danielle Ledbetter

    At least two spills have happened at Albany's Lift Station 26, dumping more than 30,000 gallons of sewage into the Flint River.

    In order to figure out why this keeps happening, Bruce Maples, the director of engineering and planning for the city of Albany says we need to go back in time.

    "In 1955, our city commissioners and the county decided that they wanted to improve the sanitary sewer system," said Maples. "Before 1959, everything went to the Flint River or went to some of it's tributaries."

    He says the pipes at Lift Station 26 were built in 1959, making them 60 years old. Back then, Maples says the pipes were made out of concrete.

    All the sewage that flows through the concrete pipes, he says, releases hydrogen sulfate gas.

    "When [the gas is] released and it reacts with oxygen and becomes sulfuric acid and with the concrete pipe, it takes it and eats the material, the concrete material, away from it," he said.

    It essentially erodes and weakens the pipe, he says.

    "It's like most people when you get to be 50 you have to get a colonoscopy, well, we just did a colonoscopy on the west side and east side receptors," said Maples.

    Now that the city says they've identified the problem, they say they're working to make improvements.

    Sewer systems superintendent Jeff Hughes says the lift station that's been causing the city problems, lift station 26, is now repaired.

    "All of the insides have been replaced [of the main control panel] upgraded to current technologies, over here, we replaced some starters and stuff. Downstairs we have all new valves, all the valves in this station have been changed out" says Hughes. "The valves we had were old and were not closed well, so it made it more difficult to maintain the pumps."

    Hughes says they have some new measures in place so that sewage doesn't spill into the river in case another spill happens.

    Now that everything is repaired, Hughes said the station should last another 15 years.

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