Close to 2 million gallons of raw sewage overflows in south Lawrence; health advisory issued

Close to 2 million gallons of raw sewage overflowed a manhole in south Lawrence, causing the city to issue a health and stream advisory for the area.

The sewage overflow occurred near 31st and Louisiana streets after a pump failure Monday evening. City officials said sewage overflowed the manhole for approximately 12 hours, causing approximately 1.9 million gallons of raw untreated sewage to flood nearby Naismith Creek.

The health and stream advisory is being issued for the creek area “in and around” 31st and Louisiana streets, according to a press release. The sewage overflow could result in “elevated bacteria and contaminants” in the creek, which is bordered by a city bike and walking trail. Residents are advised not to enter the stream or allow children or pets to enter the stream.

City spokeswoman Megan Gilliland said the city has reported the overflow to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and is currently monitoring the condition of the water. Gilliland said she didn’t yet know if the sewage could affect nearby plant and wildlife, or if the city would be responsible for any cleanup, but that the city would be working with KDHE.

“As our regularity agency we absolutely work with them, and notified them immediately of the issue,” Gilliland said. “And we’re working with our partners there.”

The city was not aware of the pump failure and subsequent overflow until the morning after it occurred. Jeanette Klamm, utilities department management analyst, said the overflow was reported around 7:40 a.m. Tuesday, and that they were able to stop the flow of sewage about an hour after it was reported.

Naismith Creek runs adjacent to the Baker Wetlands before eventually flowing into the Wakarusa River, but Klamm said the creek doesn’t drain into the wetlands. The overflow does not affect the city’s drinking water supply, which is drawn from the Kansas River and Clinton Lake.

Gilliland said signs have been posted along the city’s walking and biking path that borders the creek that let residents know it is not safe for people or pets to enter the water. She said the sewage is already being diluted.

“There is water running right now, so it’s not just sitting there and pooling,” Gilliland said. “It’s being diluted by natural water running through the environment and then dilution downstream into the Wakarusa.”

Klamm said the sewage overflow was due to the failure of a bypass pump directly up the line from the pump located at 31st and Louisiana streets. She said the utilities department is currently taking samples from both Naismith Creek and the Wakarusa River.

Gilliland said the city will rescind the advisory once water samples show no health risk.

“We’re continuing to monitor levels and once our tests come back to safe levels we will remove any signage and we will rescind the health advisory,” Gilliland said.

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