Feb 02, 2007

Failed Alarm Causes Largest N.C. County Sewage Spill in Two Years

A pump station alarm that is supposed to be checked daily at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department wasn’t working for four days, causing the largest sewage spill in two years for Mecklenburg County, N.C.

The Charlotte Observer reports that over $650,000 gallons of sewage contaminated a cove leading to Lake Sylie, which lead to warnings against fishing or contact with the water. Rusty Rozelle, the county water quality chief, reported that the contamination did not have an affect on the drinking water.

The phone line to the alarm at the Neal Branch Sewer Creek sewer pump station was disconnected by a tree-trimming contractor. No one discovered that the alarm was out until crews found sewage overflowing from two manholes.

The pump malfunction was immediately repaired, but sewage had already been spilling for two days.

The spill almost equals all the sewage the overflowed during the second half of 2006. It is also recorded as the largest spill since May 2005, when a broken pipe leaked 740,000 gallons into Long Creek.

Utilities department spokesperson Vic Simpson reported to the Charlotte Observer that the department is currently investigating what went wrong, as it is rare that alarms malfunction.