Plugged Wausau sewer line dumps 3.7 million gallons into Wis. Ri - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Plugged Wausau sewer line dumps 3.7 million gallons into Wis. River


WAUSAU (WAOW) - Saying it takes stewardship of the environment "very seriously," the city reported Monday that 3.7 million gallons of wastewater from a plugged sewer line overflowed into the Wisconsin River last week and steps are underway to help prevent it from happening again.

One idea is placing a monitoring system in the overflow pipe to give Wausau Water Works a way to detect problems earlier, Public Works Director Eric Lindman said.

Also being considered is adding more monitoring of the sewer lines dumping into the treatment plant to detect flow changes to provide an early warning of possible problems, and "changes in system design at regulated industries discharging to this line to prevent future line plugging," he said in a statement.

"The overflow discharged to the Wisconsin River, although unfortunate, was unavoidable," Lindman said. "The city of Wausau takes the safety of residents, protection of their property and stewardship to the environment very seriously."

Lacey Hillman, a wastewater expert for the state Department of Natural Resources in Eau Claire, said Friday she expected no environmental problems because of the overflow.

Lindman said the DNR has given no indication the city will be cited and fined for the pollution.

Every day, an average of 5.4 million gallons of wastewater flow to the treatment plant and about 20 percent of it - slightly more than 1 million gallons - comes from the line underneath the Wisconsin River that plugged, Lindman said.

But it's not unusual for flows into the treatment center to fluctuate up to 30 percent, so the drop of 20 percent did not alert to a problem, he said.

The overflow was discovered late Tuesday morning after people along Sturgeon Eddy Road reported a sewer odor, the utility expert said. It took the work of three city departments about 24 hours to fix the mess, the utility expert said.

The city believes overflowing from the 18-inch line started Jan. 19.

The overflow pipe prevented the blocked line from backing up into perhaps hundreds of homes in southeast Wausau and Schofield, which would have been a "significant health risk" and would have caused "severe property damage with immediate and long-term safety consequences" at homeowners' expense, Lindman said.

As for the Wisconsin River, Lindman said the 3.7 million gallons of wastewater dumped into it represents less than half a percent of "total river flow" in that area during the four days of the overflow.

"Because of the location of the plugged pipe and the volume of backed-up wastewater, there were no feasible alternatives to the release," he said.

Powered by Frankly