An environmental group is questioning the Macon Water Authority's handling of a recent sewage spill.
A letter from Altamaha Riverkeeper group to the MWA says it is concerned by its account of the spill reported on Labor Day at S. Pine Knoll Drive, near the Ocmulgee River.
"This spill raises questions about MWA's sewage spill response plan, including its response time, method of calcuating the size of a spill and the manner in which spills are cleaned up."
The letter from Riverkeeper executive director Deborah Sheppard says the spill probably involved more than the 4,860 gallons reported by the water authority.
The water authority says homeowner Roland Neel reported the spill around 1:30 p.m. and the flow was stopped around 5:30 p.m. They say their response was delayed by bad directions from Neel.
Even considering that, Sheppard wrote, "that is a long time for the problem to continue."
But, she added, based on the amount of sewage found in the normally dry creek bed, "it is reasonable to assume that spill had been going on much longer."
She said the sewage may have been flowing for days.
"A 400-foot previously dry creek bed flowing two feet deep with sewage was documented moving directly into the river mid afternoon. It did not simply fill up with sewage at the exact moment it was discovered."
And even though the water authority reported to the state that the spill was cleaned up by Sept. 5, photos taken on Sept. 7 show that some sewage still remained, she wrote.
The spill flowed into the Ocmulee River, Sheppard wrote, "less than a quarter mile from Amerson Water Works Park, where large numbers of people were enjoying the river in Boats, tubes and by wading and swimming.
"We understand the problem in taking corrective action on a holiday weekend, but that is exactly the time when people using the river are most likely to be exposed to problems from sewage spills."
She also wrote that "MWA's complaining about the reporting of the spill to WMAZ also calls into question its concern for keeping the public aware of public health hazards that result from the inevitable occasional sewage spill."
Altamaha Riverkeeper, based in Darien, monitors water quality and threats to the Altamaha and Ocmulgee rivers.
John Draughon, an attorney for homeowner Roland Neel called the water authority's actions "a classic case of a government coverup." He says this is the third time there has been a spill on or near his property, which faces the Ocmulgee River.
Tony Rojas, the director of the Water Authority, says he works a lot with the Altamaha Riverkeepers and says he appreciates their concern. He says the MWA plans on investigating the matter and reporting what they find.