Cumberland Times-News

Local News

September 8, 2010

Sewage again overflows into Deep Creek Lake

Strings from cloth mop entangled part of pump, caused malfuction Sunday afternoon

— OAKLAND — A sewage pump malfunction on Sunday in Garrett County resulted in a 6,400-gallon sewage spill near the shore of Deep Creek Lake.

The spill occurred in the area of 2739 Lake Shore Drive at about 3:10 p.m., when strings from a cloth mop entangled the pump’s float control device, according to Linda Lindsey, director of the Garrett County Department of Public Utilities. Because the float device was bound up, the pumps ran continuously until they overheated.

Sewage spilled across the ground and into a nearby stream that feeds into the lake.

“It basically saturated the ground, because the ground was so dry,” Lindsey said at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

County officials were notified when an adjoining property owner heard an alarm at the station and called the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management. That office paged the public utilities employee on duty, who went immediately to the scene of the spill.

Lindsey said the employee was able to correct the malfunction approximately nine minutes after receiving notification of the problem.

The ground was disinfected and the area cordoned off from the public. Buoys were set up to restrict traffic in that portion of the lake.

A public service announcement was broadcast on the radio Monday to notify the public of the hazard.

Water testing has been conducted daily since the spill and will continue until bacteria counts fall to acceptable levels, Lindsey said.

It’s the second major malfunction to result in a sewage overflow in as many months.

On July 11, an electrical malfunction at a pump station near the intersection of U.S. Route 219 and Lake Shore Drive caused 42,000 gallons of sewage to overflow along the shore of the lake.

In that incident, an electrical short prevented an emergency generator from supplying power to the pumps. The spill apparently occurred sometime before 7 a.m. and was reported by a neighboring property owner at approximately 9:45 a.m. County workers corrected the problem at the pump station by about 10 a.m.

Afterward, county officials committed to the installation of diesel-powered emergency backup pumps at three pump stations, including the two involved in the recent spills and another on the same line.

Those are the three pump stations that handle the majority of the system’s flow, Lindsey said.

Workers began installing the diesel pumps last week but were pulled away to repair water leaks elsewhere in the system. Lindsey said that had the diesel pump been online, Sunday’s spill would likely have been prevented.

She said her department tries to educate businesses and vacation rental companies about what materials can and cannot be flushed down the drain, but that doesn’t prevent all problems. Even towels and bedsheets have occasionally made their way through the system to bind up the pumps.

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.

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