Lawrence residents warned to stay out of floodwaters, rivers as sewage releases continue

photo by: City of Lawrence

The city has posted health advisories along some Lawrence rivers and creeks after a failure at a wastewater treatment plant led to sewage releases into local waterways.

Updated story

Aug. 4 — City fixes sewage treatment equipment, stops releases into local waterways

An equipment failure at a Lawrence wastewater plant had not been fixed as of Friday afternoon, and sewage releases into nearby streams and rivers were continuing, the city said in a news release.

The failure at the Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant, 1400 E. Eighth St., was caused by heavy rainfall Thursday, and the city shut down the plant for repairs. As a result, the city’s Municipal Services and Operations Department began bypassing the treatment plant and diverting wastewater into the Kansas River and nearby streams.

The city has posted health advisory signs along affected waterways, including the Kansas River, the Wakarusa River, Burroughs Creek and several smaller creeks. Floodwaters in low-lying areas may also be contaminated, the city said, and residents should keep pets and children from coming into contact with floodwater.

The city said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been notified, and city staff will continue to sample water conditions as repairs continue. Advisories will remain in place at least through Monday, the city said.

Storms late Wednesday and Thursday morning dropped around 8 inches of rain in some areas of Douglas County.

Earlier in the summer, the city released rainwater and sewage into Brush Creek in southwest Lawrence when a pump station reached maximum capacity because of heavy rainfall. The advisories posted during that incident, at the end of June, were lifted after several days.

One of the city’s biggest infrastructure projects in recent years was the completion of a second, $74 million sewage treatment plant near the Wakarusa River southeast of Lawrence. That plant, which opened in 2018, was intended to relieve the strain on, not replace, the older and much larger plant along the Kansas River as it reached capacity, the city previously told the Journal-World.

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