Weather causes wastewater spills; no public health risk, officials say

Jun. 11, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Approximately 5,900 gallons of wastewater spilled into various locations near downtown Sanford on Friday due to heavy rain, city officials reported — adding that the public is not in any danger.

Spills at manholes near 305 Rose Street, 522 Sunset Drive and the intersections of Market Street and Hickory Avenue, Maple Avenue and Jenkins Street and Third Street and Alcott Street ranged from 1,200 to 2,700 gallons of waste. The city reported the spills to the state on Saturday, which is required after any spill of at least 1,000 gallons of waste.

Officials from the city's sewage and public works departments weren't available for comment Monday, but City Manager Hal Hegwer and General Services Director Tim Shaw said the situation was handled quickly and that there was no public health risk. They also said they didn't expect further spillages Monday although the county was under a flash flood watch and tornado watch.

The report to the N.C. Division of Water Quality stated that the spills drained into Little Buffalo Creek and Big Buffalo Creek, but that city workers cleaned and treated the areas based on state guidelines. Shaw said these kinds of sewage spills are uncommon but can generally be expected in low-lying areas that get several inches of rain in just a few hours, which happened Friday.

"Our guys were out during the event, monitoring (the manholes) and addressing those issues," he said, adding that workers taped off the various areas to make sure no civilians accidentally came into contact with the spills.

Hegwer also said spills are rare and can be caused by vandalism, as well as heavy rain or natural disasters. However, he said eradicating sewage spills has been and continues to be on the city of Sanford's agenda, and the budget he prepared for next year includes $500,000 to cut down on such spills in the future by strengthening the system.

"We continue to invest in our system and efforts to eliminate any overflows," he said.