After 150,000 gallons of wastewater spilled into a creek because of two malfunctions in two months, the Trion, Ga., town council will vote at a special called meeting Thursday on whether to buy a new generator for the treatment plant.
The first spill of about 57,000 gallons occurred on Oct. 2, when the power failed on a system that controls pumps for water intake. The second spill of about 96,000 gallons occurred on Nov. 18, when a power outage swept through Chattooga County and a generator failed to kick in.
In the second case, the generator's batteries were zapped at the critical moment. Plant Superintendent Andy Melton said that was the result of a malfunctioning part that has been at the plant since 1973.
After it was too late, the plant's maintenance team discovered the contact of the solenoid inside the generator was connected to the contact of the two 12-volt batteries. In this case, the contacts for the solenoid and the battery were connected even when the switch was off, draining the battery of its juice even though nobody was using it.
Melton said the old part must have gotten so hot, the contacts basically welded together.
"You have a 44-year-old piece of equipment," he said. "It's going to fail for some reason. ... We need that piece of equipment to be 100 percent reliable all the time."