Thursday, December 17, 2009

17 DEC 09: Spill a Spell

A midday drive through downtown Columbus Wednesday led to a curious sight. Water flowed across First Avenue, between the Government Center and RiverCenter - and it flowed from a grassy median in the middle of the avenue. It seemed like a very strange spot to test for a new drinking fountain.

I sadly did not carry my blog camera at the time - but city workers apparently lifted the sod from a corner of the First Avenue traffic median, to let water drain from it. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't disclose this. A thief might drive by in March, and try to help himself to a new front lawn.

That release of water seemed to be intentional -- but Columbus has been dealing with several which are not. WTVM reported Wednesday the Georgia Environmental Division is investigating several recent local sewage spills. The last time this much "brown" was out of control, Rihanna reported it to police....

Columbus Water Works has dealt with two big sewage spills in the last two weeks. The latest one occurred this week, and put thousands of gallons of sewage in Lake Oliver. So if you noticed this, don't be confused - the brown tint is NOT an attempt to promote some kind of organic fishing.

On top of that, a sewage spill last week at Oxbow Meadows sent 64,000 gallons in the Chattahoochee River. It reportedly left a mess on part of the Riverwalk - and may have led some Fort Benning soldiers to go shopping for studded bicycle tires.

State investigators and Columbus Water Works executives seem to agree on one thing: all the rain has been a factor in all the sewage spills. A year with more than 75 inches of rain has put the sewer system under a lot of stress - not to mention the drug stores which stocked up on sunscreen.

But the sewage spills could wind up costing Columbus Water Works a lot of money in fines. The utility was fined $56,000 four years ago -- and this time, Georgia state government needs even more cash to balance the budget.

Columbus Water Works officials insist there's nothing structurally wrong with the sewer system. They say the spills have occurred in only a few spotty areas. You know, the ones with the big brown spots....

Long-time Columbus residents will remember when we pointed fingers at Atlanta's continual sewage spills. People complained all the muck was sent down the Chattahoochee River to our area. If we're not careful, some unusual recycling is going to happen - with the old Columbus complaints being picked up by Eufaula and Dothan.

The sewage spills only add to a difficult year for Columbus Water Works. The utility already had to reach settlements, stemming from the big water tank explosion in the spring. Executives now probably wish the sewage spills had happened first -- because a burst rush of water might clean up most of the damage.

By the way. this blog broke the news last summer of a similar sewage spill in Phenix City [2 Jul]. The last time I jogged on the Phenix City Riverwalk, a sign was still posted along Holland Creek warning of potential trouble. You'd think a smart aleck might have moved that sign by now, to the main City Hall entrance.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a news item from earlier this week that we admittedly let slide....

Do you know if the man who chairs the 2009 Splost Committee, Hemingway, is related to the real Hemingway?

Apparently not - since I don't even see a Hemingway on the Muscogee County School District's list of committee members. There's a Lance Hemmings, who's a veteran banker. But simply being named chair does NOT mean everything will go Hemmings' way.

(Oh, by the way - the single guy in me is assuming the "real Hemingway" is Margaux....)

Let's check other news items we uncovered Wednesday - well, other than the story some readers don't want me to mention:

+ A blog reader called our attention to an unusual furniture sale at Columbus State University's Cunningham Center. One item is a "Harvest Cherry" double pedestal desk which is "new, never used." OK, which secretary was fired for not saluting Carmen Cavezza?

+ Columbus Technical College reported a record fall enrollment of 4,171 students. Does this explain why Miller-Motte Technical College has bought a billboard on Manchester Expressway, right next door to the campus? Is it trying to recruit students who can't find a place to park?

+ Muscogee County School District officials told WLTZ they don't have to worry about the new three-ton weight limit on the Brown Avenue Bridge, near Cusseta Road. They said school buses have not used that bridge in years. My concern is with all the Church's Chicken lovers who do - and what might happen if they drive on the bridge with too many boxes.

+ The Columbus city Personnel Review Board revoked the firing of Chris Brown. Brown was fired as Deputy Director of Public Services in September, after approving payment for dozens of police cars which had not arrived yet. Isn't this amazing? Brown was a bit overenthusiastic about crime prevention, and the city manager found him guilty.

(Brown will remain on suspension through January, but he told WTVM being fired for one "honest mistake" in the spending process is too harsh. That doesn't stop some Republicans from calling for a new Treasury Secretary.)

+ Goodwill Industries revealed Columbus has one of the highest percentages in the country, of people receiving "rapid refund" tax anticipation loans. But can you really blame all these people? They're tired of Columbus getting things several months or years after Atlanta does.

+ The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra named David Coucheron as its new concertmaster. Coucheron is 25, and a native of Norway. But he isn't taking over the position until next fall - which makes me wonder if the orchestra bothered stopping by the local unemployment office for some interviews.

+ Atlanta Falcons linebacker Jonathan Babineaux apologized for being a distraction to the team. The apology came after police records were released, indicating Babineaux admitted to driving while smoking marijuana. Some Falcon fans are ready for him to give that marijuana to Matt Ryan, to ease the pain from that toe injury.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Georgia Tech's men advancing past Arkansas-Pine Bluff 65-53. I'm old enough to remember when "putting out an A.P.B." simply meant a police all-points bulletin.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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