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Burst sewer pipe causes stinky mess
Workers replaces the aging steel pipe with a plastic one.
By BARBARA BEHRENDT and JOEL ANDERSON, Times Staff Writers
Published December 22, 2007
SPRING HILL - Christmas wasn't the only thing in the air Thursday morning at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on U.S. 19.
In the early morning hours, a 16-inch sewer line broke loose, spewing thousands of gallons of sewage onto the site of the regional sewer treatment plant just north of the store.
Workers arriving about 6:30 a.m. discovered that the aging underground pipe had blown apart and sewage was bubbling up. A special valve allowed them to bypass the break site so that the sewage flow could continue and customers would not have interrupted service, said Jesse Goodwin, interim utilities director.
More than a dozen county employees were sent to the scene to begin the clean-up. Some of the sewage was vacuumed up and returned to the treatment system. Lime was then spread over the area.
The remainder of the sewage was collected to be disposed of at the county landfill, Goodwin said.
The county immediately notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection of the spill, as is required by law.
By mid morning, wastewater employees were replacing the 16-inch steel pipe with a plastic pipe. The old steel pipe likely burst about 4 or 5 a.m., said Landis Legg, supervisor of the Spring Hill Wastewater Treatment Facility. The pipe, which was installed in the 1970s, likely ruptured because of age.
Legg said no homeowners should have been affected by the breach, and he predicted that the replacement pipe would be installed by the end of the day.
"The line aged and it broke," Legg said. "But it broke during our low-flow time. There shouldn't be any problems ... it didn't get in any waterways or anything like that."
Goodwin said the timing of the break was unfortunate because it was a while before someone was on site to notice the problem. It could have been worse, but it was largely contained on site and service was not interrupted. He said the only problem was that people in the area might be inconvenienced by the odor.
Foul odors from the plant have long been an issue for neighbors. Goodwin said that since the county acquired the facility in 2003, the utilities department has spent $150,000 to try to get the smell under control.
The county is working on plans to either eliminate the need for the facility or redesign it but nothing has been finalized, Goodwin said.
"It's a wastewater plant," he said. "It treats sewage. You're going to have odors."