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Monitoring at Phenix City’s wastewater treatment plant 

CRK staff are collecting water samples from Phenix City’s wastewater treatment plant more frequently after we received reports of undertreated sewage flowing from the plant’s outfall into the Chattahoochee River. Our testing has confirmed spikes in E. coli bacteria levels in the river immediately downstream of Phenix City and Columbus. It is important to note that water quality is NOT impacted in the whitewater course upstream of the plant. 

Recreators should exercise caution downstream of the plant’s discharge while the risk of harmful bacteria exposure is high. Avoid fully submerging underwater, wash your hands after contacting the water, and exercise particular caution with young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.  

We’ll provide updates as we continue to monitor this outfall and others in the Chattahoochee River Basin.

What is causing the elevated bacteria levels?

Issues with the operation and maintenance of the Phenix City Wastewater Treatment Plant appear to be causing the elevated bacteria levels. CRK staff are in communication with city officials and will share more details when they become available.

How far downstream is impacted?

The greatest impact is immediately downstream of the Phenix City Wastewater Treatment Plant discharge outfall on the Chattahoochee River. Georgia Power releases water from North Highlands Dam upstream, which helps to dilute E. coli contamination further downstream. While issues at the plant are ongoing, CRK recommends that river users exercise caution on the river downstream of the Phenix City Wastewater Treatment Plant for 36 miles to the headwaters of Lake Eufaula. Please note that water quality is not impacted in the whitewater course upstream of the plant.

Is drinking water impacted?

Drinking water in the area is not affected by the plant failure. All source water is treated to meet drinking water standards.

What is the impact on wildlife?

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is monitoring the impact of the discharge on wildlife at the Phenix City plant’s outfall and downstream. Currently, there are no indications of a fish kill as a result of the discharge.

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