Federal officials monitoring sewage spill in Tennessee creek

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2016 5:21 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A broken sewage line is dumping up to 50 million gallons of untreated wastewater per day into a Mississippi River tributary in Tennessee, and federal environmental officials said Friday they are monitoring the situation.

Local and state officials said the spill poses no immediate risk to the public, but they also said people should avoid touching or fishing in an affected creek and lake.

Shelby County Health Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hart said the department is working with Memphis public works officials to determine if there will be long-term health and environmental effects from the spill into Cypress Creek.

The creek is near McKellar Lake, which flows into the Mississippi. Hart says the creek is not a drinking water source.

The spill is dumping up to 50 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the creek per day, said Robert Knecht, director of the Memphis Public Works Division. In a statement, Knecht said a bypass around the damaged section of line is estimated to be in place in three to four days.

The leak began Thursday, when ground under the pipe gave way because of heavy rain.

In addition to monitoring the situation, federal environmental officials are notifying regions downstream about the spill, said Larry Lincoln, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta. There is no oil or hazardous material in the wastewater, to the agency's knowledge, Lincoln said.

Tennessee's Department of Environment and Conservation is sampling the affected bodies of water, spokesman Eric Ward said. City crews are placing warning signs in the area near the creek.

Construction to replace the sewer line could take three to four months to replace, with an estimated repair cost of $8 to 10 million, Knecht said.