Feb 22, 2008

Burlington, Iowa, Discharges Wastewater, Runoff into Mississippi River

Estimated two million gal of discharge due to plugged pipe

An estimated two million gal of untreated wastewater mixed with storm water runoff was discharged into the Mississippi River after a pipe became plugged in the city of Burlington, Iowa, according to a report by the Keokuk Daily Gate City.

Burlington officials are unsure of when the discharge began, but discovered the plugged pipe on Tuesday, Feb. 19 in the Brooks Street section of the Hawkeye Sewer System, the paper reported.

The line was unplugged about 4 p.m. on Feb. 19, but the discharge was not reported to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) until about noon on Feb. 20, according to the paper.

“If we had been notified when the discharge began or shortly after that, we could have collected and tested water samples,” Russell Royce, an environmental specialist with the Washington DNR field office, said. “That would have let us know the impact of the discharge.

“Without test results, we don't know how much the untreated wastewater was diluted by any rainwater runoff entering the combined storm and sanitary sewers,” he said.

The DNR will issue a notice of violation to the city because of the delay in reporting the discharge, the paper reported. Discharges caused by mechanical failures must be reported to the DNR within 12 hours of the onset or discovery of the discharge.

The city has recently made a major commitment to update its combined sewer system, the paper reported, and city officials plan to install storage tanks at this site to prevent future overflows.