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Sewer line break pours 115,000 gallons of wastewater into creek

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

Yesterday morning, Austin Water Utility crews were on the scene of a wastewater spill from a broken 10-inch sewer main near the 4900 block of Manchaca Road. The spill was originally reported at about 9:40am.


According to Jill Mayfield from the utility’s Public Information Office, by the time crews were able to stop the spill, between 2 and 3pm, 115,000 gallons of wastewater had entered nearby Williamson Creek.


At 4:40pm the city released a statement saying AWU crews had determined that the cause of the break was tree roots that had infiltrated the line.


“We found the break,” Mayfield explained, “we opened the ground, we did a bypass as much as possible so crews could get in the hole and pull a section of pipe out and replace it with another section of pipe. And then they closed it up and sealed it and backfilled the hole.”


As for the cleanup, Mayfield said that crews expected to be working in Williamson Creek all night, with the goal of soaking up 75 percent of the “gunk and sludge out of the creek … the fluids that were deposited there from the spill.” The spill is made up of untreated water from homes and businesses in the area, water from sinks, drains, toilets, showers, washing machines, etc. The water from the sewer main is usually treated at two plants in southeast Austin.


“Our crews are going to be bagging and scraping most of the night,” Mayfield said.


Provided everything went smoothly with the cleanup last night (and the process wasn’t impeded by rainfall), Mayfield said the city hoped to begin its investigation into the cause of the leak first thing this morning. She said one option was to insert a fiber-optic robotic camera into the sewer main to get a better sense of what had gone wrong.


Mayfield was quick to stress that the spill would not affect the public drinking water supply. “There aren’t any safety issues in terms of the drinking water,” she said. “Our water source is Lake Austin. The creek is not in a recharge zone so it’s really not soaking into the aquifer.”


However, she did advise people to stay away from Williamson Creek until the cleanup and wastewater recovery were completed.

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