Damaged pipe has leaked 9.3 million gallons of sewage

Published 11:13 pm Friday, November 2, 2012

Approximately 9.3 million gallons of untreated sewage have flowed into Shingle Creek since last week from a damaged pipe near Wilroy Road, according to a press release from the Suffolk Health Department.

Wilroy Road between East Constance Road and Suburban Drive will be closed for about a month to make repairs, officials announced Thursday.

This photo submitted by a reader on Monday shows raw sewage spewing onto plants off Wilroy Road. The road will be closed up to four weeks for repair.

The 30-inch concrete pipeline has a 9-inch hole in it that was discovered Monday by divers, said Nancy Munnikhuysen, spokeswoman for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

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Munnikhuysen said a temporary repair has been made to reduce the amount of leakage to “minimal amounts,” but there still is some discharge.

HRSD is not sure of the cause of the break but believes Hurricane Sandy was a contributing factor, she said.

She said residents in the area have been notified, but comments from nearby residents on the Suffolk News-Herald Facebook page Friday evening state otherwise.

The repair is “made difficult by a perfect storm of factors,” Munnikhuysen said.

The affected section of pipe is buried adjacent to wetlands, and the pipe is under tidal waters, so some tasks will require the use of divers in wetsuits, she said. The hole also is near an angled joint.

Contractors will install a bypass pipe to divert the flow away from the main pipe during the repair, she said.

The Suffolk Health Department advises that the leak “may present more health risks to recreational water users than what would normally be present.”

Recreational water users are “strongly advised to use caution” when using Shingle Creek and the nearby section of the Nansemond River, according to a press release from the Suffolk Health Department. People should avoid swallowing river water, or coming in contact with river water if they have an open wound. People should also shower after any recreational water activities, according to the release.

Munnikhuysen said the road must be closed during the month-long repair “because it is difficult to position the heavy construction equipment needed to accomplish the work while assuring the safety of motorists.”

Munnikhuysen said HRSD has been advised that drinking water in the area is not affected.

Area residents still are able to get to and from their homes during the work, according to a city press release.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said school buses are being allowed to access part of the closed area to pick up children who live there. For other students, temporary bus stops have been created at Portsmouth Boulevard’s intersections with Elm Street, Myrtle Street and Proctor Street.

Nineteen students live in the affected area.

“We will continue to offer these stops until the road is opened,” Bradshaw said.

Additional spill information can be found by calling the regional office of the Department of Environmental Quality at 518-2000. For general information about sewage overflow, visit www.deq.state.va.us/programs/water.aspx.