Nearly 96,000 gallons of sewage spilled into Columbus' Lindsay Creek during Tuesday rain

Ida got into the sewer, and the sewage got out.

The tropical storm that brought about 5 inches of rain here Tuesday produced a prodigious storm runoff that deluged Columbus’ sanitary sewers, causing four overflows that spilled into Lindsay Creek.

Two spills, one at Bellanca Street and another at Grumman Avenue, were in the neighborhood near West Britt David Road north of the Columbus Metropolitan Airport, The other two, one at Vernon Street and another at Austell Drive and Boyd Drive, were just off Warm Springs Road near the Manchester Expressway, just east of where Lindsay Creek flows in front of Peachtree Mall.

Each reported around 11:30 a.m., the spills were estimated at 14,000 gallons at Bellanca, 14,403 at Grumman, 23,635 at Vernon and 43,800 at Austell and Boyd, said Jim Patterson, the Columbus Water Works Senior Vice President for the Division of Environmental and Communications Services.

Patterson said so much rain fell Tuesday that some manholes – each of which has two holes in its cover so workers with picks can pry them open – were entirely submerged. The pick holes are about an inch in diameter, he said. “That’s real small, but when you add up thousands of those, some water can get in that way,” he said.

Besides that, the manholes and covers, made of cast iron, don’t always fit tightly, he said.

“Some other examples of how some water may be getting in there would be if somebody’s tied a roof drain into the sanitary line, or a yard drain, and imperfections in the sewer piping itself – cracks or joints that may have pulled apart,” he said.

The system uses gravity to maintain flow, always declining in elevation and collecting more sewage as it goes, he said. So it’s usually in the same low-lying areas that storm runoff drains to.

“In some of these areas, the manholes were completely underwater, so we probably had water going into our system there and then on down the line, where it all accumulates, it will spill out,” he said.

The spills pose little health risk because the sewage was so diluted by rain and so quickly flushed downstream, Patterson said.