1.8 Million Gallons of Sewage Spews Into River
While working on a bridge construction project, contractors accidentally sunk a piling into a 24-inch concrete sewer main and caused up to 1.8 million gallons of raw sewage to spew into a river. Workers at the Tamaqua wastewater treatment plant noticed that sewage flow levels had plummeted from 1,700,000 gallons per-day, to only 200,000 gallons per-day. It was this observation that inevitably led to the discovery of the broken sewer main.
The borough manager and a plant supervisor went to the bridge shortly after the plant’s loss of sewage flow had been brought to their attention. “I had a suspicion that the bridge construction project was involved. The plant is located just a short distance south of the bridge,” said the borough manager. They arrived at the bridge, finding that all the workers had left. However, sewage discharge was discovered flowing out of a combined sewer overflow that should have been quiet. The borough manager continued, “Had the overflow not been there to provide an outlet for the sewage, the flow of effluent would have backed up into people’s homes.” He and the plant supervisor both contacted the project inspector from PennDOT and called the emergency number for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Workers built a coffer dam—an enclosure that kept the river water from mixing with the raw sewage outfall. They also setup pumps, to redirect the sewage overflow to a downstream manhole. In addition, tanker trucks hauled away some of the sewage that flowed from the broken sewer main. Meanwhile, other workers dug a trench to reach the damaged section of pipe. Wanting to know more information on how the incident occurred and why four hours had passed before the department was notified, the Department of Environmental Protection launched an investigation.