Crews stop Wills Creek sewage leak

City crews installed a pump and pipe that are serving as a temporary fix to a sewage leak at Wills Creek.

Greg Larry/Times-News

CUMBERLAND — City crews have stopped a leak that was spewing 80,000 gallons of raw sewage daily into Wills Creek.

“They did a wonderful job,” said John DiFonzo, city engineer. “There is no sewage leaking into the (Wills) creek from the site at this time.”

The repair is temporary until the source of the mysterious flow can be identified and corrected.

Discovered in late September, the leak was emanating from an underdrain beneath the Valley Street bridge. It was observed during a routine inspection of the flood wall and the drainage system.

However, the source of the leak was, and remains, a mystery to officials.

The city made the leak public and warned recreationalists to stay out of the water in early October.

“The problem is that there is no sewer near the location where the leak appears to be entering the (underdrains) along Wills Creek,” said Kim Root, city compliance specialist, said at that time. “None of the city sewer lines have the source to carry the flow that is in the area.”

Officials weren’t sure when the leak started, but said then it could have been going on for as long as three months.

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Crews stop Wills Creek sewage leak

Fifty to 60 gallons of sewage per minute are being pumped into a manhole on the north side of Valley Street, at left.

DiFonzo said the city had help from the state and a flood control specialist in creating a repair for the leak. A special pumping system was ordered to make the repair. City crews entered the creek to do the work.

“City crews from our central services department got the pump installed and did a good job,” DiFonzo said. “They did the electrical and ran the pipe and made all the connections. They had to manufacture the steel plate so it would be safe.

“The pump is putting out 50 to 60 gallons a minute. It is running 24/7. It is pumping it (sewage) into the sewer system. It (the pump) is sitting in the drain structure and pumping (the sewage) into a manhole on the north side of Valley Street.”

DiFonzo said crews were able to make the repairs before some of the recent heavy rains that occurred in the last few weeks. He said water tests confirmed what the officials had feared.

“The testing shows it is sewage,” DiFonzo said. “It was diluted when it rained. But, it is still significant.”

DiFonzo said finding a permanent fix is proving to be difficult. The source is most likely located deep beneath other sewer and gas lines as well as the flood control walls and foundation and railroad tracks.

Crews did find a leak from a septic tank near Burgmeier’s Hauling, but that leak was not the culprit.

“... it’s not large enough,” DiFonzo said. “We think it is something else.

“We are talking to the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers. We still have the problem. We are narrowing it down,” DiFonzo said. “We think it could be an abandoned sewer line. Getting into an old abandoned sewer line ... there are so many things in the way.”

DiFonzo said once the location of the leak can be determined, the city hopes to obtain the directional drills required to remedy the problem.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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