WINCHESTER — Umpqua Basin Water Association officials said Thursday the threat from Wednesday’s sewage spill has passed and the association is again taking in water from the North Umpqua River.
Roseburg Urban Sanitary Authority officials reported approximately 222,240 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the North Umpqua River on Wednesday morning.
RUSA General Manager Jim Baird said the spill was downstream from the City of Roseburg water intake, so the city’s water was not affected. Once officials with the Umpqua Water Basin Association were notified, they shut down their intake, which is located along the North Umpqua River by Brown’s Bridge, as a precautionary measure.
UWBA Manager Brad Johnson said the association had plenty of storage to provide its approximately 8,700 members with safe drinking water until the threat passed early Thursday morning.
“We kicked them on about 3 a.m.,” Johnson said. “Everything has actually resumed in a normal position, our chlorine content has held solid and our pH is normal. (The sewage) has pretty much been watered out and has passed the threat stage.”
The higher water flow with the recent rain helped dilute the pollution pretty quickly, Johnson said.
Baird said the contractor working on the Highway 99 road improvement project in Winchester was working on a sanitary pump line for the Winchester pump station near Amacher Park. He said when the contractor had excavated and exposed some piping on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, a fitting came apart, resulting in the sewage leak. Trucks from Heard Farms in Wilbur were called in to try and collect the sewage but were not able to keep up with the flow. As of 9 a.m., sewage began spilling into the river until about 11:40 a.m. when crews were able to get it stopped.
“They did what we call bypass pumping into the truck,” Baird said. “They actually had two Heard trucks and we had one of our trucks there to help minimize the discharge into the river.”
Baird said RUSA posted warnings at public access points along the North Umpqua River recommending people not make contact with the water until the contamination clears. He said they will continue to sample the river until the water below the spill matches the bacteria levels of the water above the spill.
Baird said the cost to mitigate the spill will be on the contractor.
“They trucked a lot of sewage, and the repair to the piping system, all that will be on the contractor,” Baird said. “DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) will evaluate what happened and dictate whether there is any violation of our permit.”
Contractors from R & G Excavating of Roseburg and utility crews for the Douglas County Public Works Department were working on replacing the second of two bridges in the Winchester area and working on the RUSA sewage lines when the break happened Wednesday morning.