Flint River south of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with the approach lights of the fifth runway in the background.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hartsfield-Jackson says sewage spilled into Flint River during heavy rains

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said sewage spilled into the Flint River near the airport during heavy rains in recent days.

The Atlanta airport issued a notice saying a sanitary sewage discharge caused a water quality violation during rainfall Jan. 11-13. As a public treatment works agency, it is required by law to notify the media of such a spill.

The Flint River flows underneath the world’s busiest airport, emerging just south of the airfield, and can reach high water levels during storms.

The spill occurred at manholes north of the city of Atlanta’s watershed Flint River pump station across from I-285 on the north side of Loop Road.

Hartsfield-Jackson’s notice said “an unknown volume of sanitary sewage discharged into the Flint River,” but that initial field samplings indicate no significant impact to the river.

The cause of the spill is under investigation “but appears to be related to the significant rainfall events over the past several days and the Flint River Pump station operating at maximum capacity,” according to the airport.

Sanitary sewer lines tend to take on rainwater in heavy rain, adding to the flow of sewage, said Ben Emanuel, director of clean water supply for American Rivers. High flows in the river due to rain can also dilute the impact of a spill on water quality, he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson said it is collecting water samples, trying to determine the root cause of the incident and meeting with the city’s watershed department on procedures to prevent this from happening again.

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.