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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Johnson County water supply diverted after sewage spill

July 4, 2001

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— Johnson County will get its water from the Missouri River for a few days because raw sewage from a punctured line flowed into the Kansas River.

A contractor laying fiber-optic telephone cable on Friday punched a 5-inch hole in the 16-inch line, releasing about 3,000 gallons of sewage. The contractor also pierced a 42-inch treated waste water line, dumping about 2 million gallons of treated waste water.

The punctured lines are upstream from the Johnson County Water District No. 1 treatment plant in Shawnee.

The plant serves an estimated 350,000 customers.

The spill traveled about one-fourth of a mile, down a retaining wall, along railroad tracks, through a culvert, into a ditch and eventually into the river.

Some of the waste likely was absorbed into the ground along the way, officials said.

Monday afternoon, a Southwestern Bell spokesman confirmed that the pipes had been damaged but declined to identify the contractor. Southwestern Bell officials need to talk to the workers, the spokesman said.

Despite the sewage spill, water samples taken during the weekend showed fecal coliform levels well below state standards, water district spokesman Tom Schrempp said. Rainfall upriver and other climatic changes can make the coliform levels vary greatly, he said.

The Missouri River can supply Johnson County's total water needs for the week, even if temperatures soar, Schrempp said.

Sunday, for example, county residents used 75.3 million gallons; the district's daily capacity is 110 million gallons.

Repairs to the two pipes are expected to be finished by the end of the week, Schrempp said.

The incident marked the second time in two years that contractors ruptured water district lines while burrowing.

The technique, known as trenchless technology, has increasingly been used throughout the county as telecommunication companies scramble to lay new lines and grab a share of the expanding market.

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