Sewage cleanup continues after millions of gallons overflow - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Sewage cleanup continues after millions of gallons overflow

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Norwich Harbor. (WFSB photo) Norwich Harbor. (WFSB photo)
Sewage spotted at the American Wharf boat launch in Norwich. (iWitness photo) Sewage spotted at the American Wharf boat launch in Norwich. (iWitness photo)

A cleanup continued on Friday after millions of gallons of sewage overflowed into Long Island Sound and a number of state rivers.

The sewage spill continues to impact shellfishing and weekend activities in the state. 

Middletown and the Connecticut River was one of the hardest hit areas, according to environmental officials. A brown foamy sludge was seen in many Connecticut waterways on Thursday and Friday.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection blamed the rain. It said anytime we get a lot of it over a short period of time, the treatment plants can't handle all of the water and caused them to flush the waste and bacteria into the water. 

"We have pipes that are combined drainage and sewage in the pipes," said Chris LaRose, who is the assistant manager at Norwich Public Utilities. The elevation in the pipes are taxed and we will have discharge in the river, which are permitted through the DEEP and the EPA."

Stamford was another area that experienced the messy, stinky, hazardous problem that began Thursday.

"It smells worse when it's at the treatment plant," Debby Gildersleeve of Stamford, said.

Officials said there's nothing that can be done until the tide goes out. The water volume Thursday in Stamford was a match to storms Irene and Sandy. Twenty-five gallons of partially treated sewage overflowed in the water there and in West Haven as well.

According to the state DEEP officials, the runoff taxed many municipal systems including Stamford, West Haven, Norwich and Middletown. A bypass was used to alleviate the overflow issue.

"In some of our combined sewer overflows, we have wares," LaRose said. "When it's taxed with all that volume it reaches that level in the system and the bypass discharge into the river."

State officials said as long as people do not come in contact with the water, there was nothing to worry about.

They also said drinking water for all cities and towns was not affected. If you have a well, state officials said residents should check on the quality.

For the next week or two the state's shellfishing beds from Stonington to Greenwich are closed for the next 14 days because of all the bacteria flushed into the sound. State Officials are expected to test the water daily.

"What we really want to do is encourage people to prevent an illness they can do that by making sure they use the water properly you can fish in it, but ask you throw it back," said Patrick McCormack, who is the director of health for Uncas district. "We ask you swim in regulated areas and check the quality of the water is appropriate before you drink it." 

McCormack told Eyewitness News it's too early for swimming, but when the time comes, people should always only swim in regulated swimming areas. Those areas are the ones that are tested by health officials.

"Warm sunny days will generally break down the bacteria in a day or so it will be a whole different environment than it was today," McCormack said.

Water heads downstream from Yantic Falls to the waste treatment plant that treats storm water runoff from streets and raw sewage in two separate pipes.

"You'd think they'd have a way to prevent it because it will happen every once in a while," said Gildersleeve.

While they don't place booms to collect the waste, the long term solution to preventing overflows is still years away. 

"Next 20 years we will be separating out the drainage and the sewage pipes and all those will be abated in the next 20 years," LaRose said.

In Middletown, crew practice for Wesleyan University went on as scheduled Thursday because the team was not warned of what was in the water.

"We have a sewage plant right here, just downwind of us. And the wind was coming toward us, so that's part of it," said Coach Peter Belmonte. "Maybe we're just used to it."

Exact amounts of overflowed waste were not known in many places. With a match coming up for Wesleyan this weekend, the team hopes the water will be clean by then.

"We're used to the smell," said Assistant Coach TJ Wilson. "So it's nothing new."

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