Local

Third major sewage spill reported in less than a year. This time it’s near the airport.

Up to 2.6 million gallons of sewage spilled into a tributary of the Catawba River when a tree, left in this photo, fell beside an 18-inch sewer pipe. The tree’s roots broke the pipe on the bank of Taggart Creek.
Up to 2.6 million gallons of sewage spilled into a tributary of the Catawba River when a tree, left in this photo, fell beside an 18-inch sewer pipe. The tree’s roots broke the pipe on the bank of Taggart Creek. Charlotte Water

Up to 2.6 million gallons of sewage has spilled into a Charlotte creek that flows into the Catawba River in South Carolina, Charlotte Water reported Wednesday. It was the city’s third major spill in less than a year.

In April, a broken sewer pipe spilled an estimated 15.4 million gallons in northwestern Mecklenburg County. Charlotte’s drinking water supply is not threatened by the most recent event.

A fallen tree broke an 18-inch sewer pipe, causing the spill near Billy Graham Parkway east of Charlotte’s airport, the utility said. The ruptured pipe was found Tuesday but might have broken as many as four days earlier, Charlotte Water spokesman Cam Coley said. The 2.6-million-gallon estimate assumes the pipe broke Friday.

“We always want to assume the worst case” in making such estimates, Coley said. “This is where we definitely appreciate everyone’s eyes and ears and noses so we can identify problems as fast as possible.”

Utility crews rerouted the flowing sewage around the broken pipe and worked Wednesday to repair the line.

Charlotte Water reported a 4.7 million gallon sewage spill last October, also when a tree broken a wastewater pipe. Untreated sewage is a health and environmental threat because it’s loaded with bacteria and disease-carrying contaminants.

Taggart Creek flows southeast to join Irwin Creek and form Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek, in turn, crosses the Carolinas state line and flows through York County, S.C., into the Catawba River downstream of Lake Wylie.

Charlotte draws water from the Catawba upstream of that location, on Mountain Island Lake and Lake Norman. Charlotte Water notified South Carolina health officials of the spill and, through the social media app Nextdoor, notified residents who live near Taggart and Sugar Creeks to stay away from them.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
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