Source: Time-News (Burlington, NC), February 1, 2014
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
Burlington will be issued a violation notice and could face a civil penalty from the N.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Water Resources for the 3.5-million-gallon leak of untreated wastewater into the Haw River earlier this week.
A break in the East Burlington Wastewater Treatment Plant’s force main line Monday caused what might be the largest leak of untreated wastewater in Burlington’s history. The sewage reached surface waters at 6:20 p.m. Monday and didn’t stop until 3:40 p.m. Wednesday.
The force main is a pressurized line that pumps the collected sewage from the inflow pump station up to the treatment process area, and the break meant the sewage flooded back down to where it came from, backing into the sewer line and causing the overflow, said Eric Davis, Burlington’s water and sewer operations manager.
Michael Layne, field operations manager in the city’s Water Resources Department, said the pump station had to be shut down, and Burlington called in a bypass pump contractor and utility contractor to install bypass pumps.
“They had to install about 600 feet of 16-inch pipe,” said Corey Basinger, Surface Water Protection Supervisor at the NCDENR Division of Water Resources’ Winston-Salem Regional Office.
It could’ve been worse, Basinger said.
“They were able to reduce the impact of this particular instance,” preventing an additional 5 million or 6 million gallons of untreated wastewater from being spilled, said Basinger, who said he was “pleased with the city’s response to a very significant situation during very challenging weather conditions.”
CITY MANAGER Harold Owen said staff doesn’t yet know how much the response and repair to the sewer line will cost, and are working to figure out what actually caused the break, which he called “surprising.”
“You see water line breaks,” but “you don’t see a (sewage line) break of this significance very often,” Owen said.
He said city staff members “maintain a record of where we have had issues, and then we monitor that,” in reference to age and flow of water and sewer lines. “There hasn’t been an issue with this line in 50 years,” Owen said.
“We don’t see these very often at all,” he said, referring to such a massive sewage line break. “I think DENR understands that, too.”
Basinger said Burlington has been very cooperative about every step of the process.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a municipal staff be so responsive in light of the situations and the conditions that existed with the weather,” Basinger said.
THAT SAID, the magnitude of the spill isn’t going unnoticed.
“There will be repercussions,” Basinger said.
He said the NCDENR Division of Water Resources’ Winston-Salem Regional Office will be sending Burlington a Notice of Recommendation for Enforcement, a type of violation meaning the state department is considering a civil penalty.
The notice requires that, within 10 days of Burlington’s certified receipt of the letter, the city send a written response including all the details of the overflow incident, which will be taken into consideration when “determin(ing) whether or not a monetary civil penalty is warranted,” Basinger said.
In the meantime, Burlington staff is keeping in touch with Basinger’s office, and the city still hasn’t observed any negative environmental impact from the spill.
Neither has the town of Pittsboro, which gathers its drinking water from the Haw River.
Burlington and NCDENR notified Pittsboro of the upriver spill Monday, and the town’s Water Treatment Plant hasn’t found evidence of contamination.
“We ran a few extra tests that deal with wastewater,” said Adam Pickett, superintendent for water treatment at Pittsboro. “We cannot detect anything out of the ordinary” in tests or by visually observing the river, he said.
“It’s a lot of (waste)water that spilled, but going into the river like that, it’s really a drop in the bucket,” Pickett said.