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Malfunction sends sewage into Alcovy

LAWRENCEVILLE - A pipe failure caused almost 148,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill into the Alcovy River east of Lawrenceville last week, according to a county report issued Monday.

The large overflow occurred Thursday night near the intersection of Alcovy and Bramlett Shoals roads after an air-release valve that branches off a 16-inch sewer line came unattached.

A Gwinnett Public Utilities official said it is unusual, if not unheard of, for such a pipe failure to occur.

"There was a physical break in the ductile-iron pipe fitting," said Public Utilities Director Frank Stephens.

Any spill involving more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage is considered major by the state Environmental Protection Division.

However, because Gwinnett spends large sums of money maintaining its sewer system in an effort to prevent overflows, it has a special agreement with the state whereby fines generally don't kick in unless a spill is 30,000 gallons or more.

A message left Monday with an EPD enforcement officer was not returned.

Stephens said work crews halted the spill within two hours and reinforced the pipe.

"It's a regrettable incident and an unusual break," he said. "Some of the guys that have been in the business 20 years have not seen this kind of thing happen before."