A large sewage spill into Elkhorn Creek on Saturday kept Memorial Day weekend boaters, fishermen and swimmers out of the water through Monday afternoon at least, according to Michael Hennigan, director of the Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency.
The spill was discovered Saturday afternoon in the woods behind Dover Manor on Dover Drive, and access was banned at Oser Landing, Great Crossing and Cardome starting Saturday.
“It was a pressurized sewer main break, and an estimated 100,000 gallons of sewage ran into Elkhorn Creek,” he said Sunday afternoon while Environmental Protection Agency staff pulled water samples to check it for safety. “We think a piece of equipment ran over it and it cracked and when the pressure built it up, it erupted like a volcano.”
Officials with Georgetown Municipal Water & Sewer Service said late Saturday night that drinking water was fine as it comes from a different source.
Officials have no idea how long it flowed before it was discovered about 5 p.m. Saturday, but while crews were working on it, it flowed for three hours before it was capped and the leak stopped, Hennigan said.
Samples were collected throughout the weekend to check if the water was safe for humans. Hennigan said Sunday afternoon they were also checking for signs of a fish kill or sheen on the water, but nothing was found. However, lab results showed the water was still unsafe, and Hennigan erred on the side of caution and kept the boating, fishing and swimming ban in place through Monday afternoon until new lab results are returned.
It had been a challenge to keep people off the water, a popular activity for the long holiday weekend, Hennigan said.
“Even though we had access to the water at Oser Landing blocked and a big electronic sign at the other locations saying stay out of the water and it was unsafe, we have had to run people out of the water all morning (Sunday),” he said. “They say they are in a boat and are not touching the water, but if they have to get into the water or water spray up in their face and they ingest it, they could get sick. And I’m not comfortable letting people in until I have safe numbers in my hands.”
Elkhorn Creek is always a popular spot when the temperatures warm up, and there are several activities planned for the next couple of weekends. Next weekend is the Elkhorn Creek cleanup and June 8 is the growing Floatfest. the sewage spill will not affect either of those activities, Hennigan said.
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.