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Combined Sewer Overflow System
Lynchburg Water Resources operates a wastewater collection system consisting of many miles of “combined” sewers. Approximately 4% of the City uses this combined collection system that carries both stormwater and wastewater to be processed and treated at the regional wastewater plant.
Combined Sewer systems are designed to collect stormwater and wastewater in the same pipe. During dry weather, these pipes transport all of the wastewater to the sewage treatment plant, where it is treated to strict standards before being discharged to the James River.
During periods of intense rainfall, however, the combined wastewater and stormwater volume in our combined sewer system can exceed the pipe’s capacity. Originally designed in the early twentieth century (learn more about our history), our system occasionally overflows and discharges water to nearby streams or the James River. These overflows, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) contain not only stormwater, but also untreated wastewater and debris collected from the streets.
How a combined sewer system works
Why Are CSOs a Concern?
CSOs affect our waterways by:
- Discharging material high in bacteria into our streams and the James River;
- Adding too much organic material to our rivers and streams, thus contributing to low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. Low oxygen levels lead to potential stress/death for fish and other organisms that live in our watersheds;
- Polluting our rivers and streams with debris such as plastic bottles, styrofoam, and other trash.
What Is the City Doing to Prevent a CSO?
The City of Lynchburg has already closed or is working to close 115 of the 132 original overflow points where combined sewage and rainwater enters streams or the James River. Once these projects are completed, the amount of wastewater entering our watersheds will be 93% less than before when the program started in 1994. That means almost 1 million fewer gallons on average of combined sewage and stormwater will be discharged from the system each year—an incredible savings for our ecosystem!
In addition to closing overflow points, Water Resources is working to increase capacity at the wastewater treatment plant to treat and store more combined wastewater. This increased capacity will allow us to treat more combined flows during rain events.
If you are curious to see if you live, work, or play near a CSO outfall, please visit Find My Sewershed.
Lynchburg Water Resources uses the Lynchburg Alerts Notification Program to notify you of combined sewer overflows. When a CSO occurs at one of our monitored overflow points into the James River, this system will send you a text message and/or email to alert you of the overflow. Thirty hours after the overflow ends, a second alert will be sent to notify you of the CSO event’s end.
If you have a question regarding a specific CSO event, please contact us at 434-485-RAIN (7246).