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Oh Crap: Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Leaking Into Mississippi River South of St. Louis?

Categories: Environment
Ready for some crappy news?

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources just sent out a news release informing the public that raw sewage has been flowing into the Mississippi River at a rate of up to 4.6 million gallons per day since June 24.

The spill is reportedly the result of a mechanical failure at the Metropolitan Sewer District lift station near Jefferson Barracks. The agency says flood waters are hindering the emergency clean-up and that the sewage has "the potential to contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems."

Here's the full text of the release (emphasis added):
The Metropolitan Sewer District in St. Louis' lift station in the Jefferson Barracks area failed on June 24, causing up to 4.6 million gallons of untreated sewage per day to enter into the Mississippi River, the Missouri Department of Resources announced Tuesday.

The overflow, which is ongoing, was reported to the department on Tuesday. It was apparently caused by both pumps in the lift station failing. The wastewater is overflowing through a manhole that is covered by Mississippi River flood waters. Flood waters are also hindering the ability to use emergency pumps. Staff from the department's St. Louis Regional Office were dispatched to the scene to evaluate the situation.

Clean water regulations require the city to submit a report detailing the release to the department within five days. The department will base future enforcement action on the city's report and the results of its on-scene investigation.

The department considers discharges of wastewater from sanitary sewer collection systems to be potential threats to public health and the environment. Such discharges have the potential to contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems.

Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by mechanical failure; obstructions in sewer lines; infiltration of rainwater and snow melt into aging systems; or undersized systems that cannot compensate for sudden increases in wastewater.

Communities across Missouri produce millions of gallons of wastewater that must be properly transported and treated before being released to waterways. However, some communities are facing challenges in accomplishing this.

In order to protect public health and the environment, the department requires communities to take appropriate action to eliminate their sanitary sewer overflow issues. To do this, communities should develop a system to track information about such incidents, including the date, time, location and size of the overflow, weather data, who notified them, when they notified the department and the measures taken to respond. The community can then use this data to aid in developing a plan to inspect the collection system, and plan and finance system upgrades.
We'll post more details when they're available.

UPDATE 6:31 p.m.: The Post-Dispatch is reporting that the leak is fixed.

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