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Cary Leaders Seek More Data In Swift Creek Sewage Spill

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CARY, N.C. — Cary town leaders have found out what went wrong before nearly 8 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into a creek in June, but they are seeking more answers in the incident.

Town leaders said late Thursday that they are seeking a second assessment of events at Cary's Swift Creek pump station before the June 23 spill, saying that findings by the project's engineering firm, Black and Veatch, have fallen short of expectations.

According to a statement released by Cary leaders Thursday night, the contractor for the pump station's expansion had excavated a large area near the station prior to June 23, when heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto filled the hole. A soil embankment collapsed, dislodging a pipe critical to the station's operations.

In order to repair the pipe, workers shut down the pump station. Afterward, sewage that would normally move through the station began emptying into Swift Creek.

After attempts to reposition the pipe initially failed, crews began using tanker trucks on June 24 in a pump-and-haul operation to keep more sewage from dumping into the creek. That process continued around the clock until June 28, when workers activated a temporary pumping operation to replace the work done at the pump station.

During the five days between the initial spill and the activation of the temporary bypass of the pump station, Cary officials estimate that up to 7.9 million gallons of untreated waste ended up in Swift Creek. Officials said that was around 32 percent of the station's average flow for that time period.

Officials said that no fish kill was observed during that time period, but the spill led to the temporary closure of several nearby lakes, as well as Holly Springs Road.

The assessment released earlier Thursday by Black & Veatch detailed events leading up to the pipe's dislocation, as well as how the town and contractors responded to the emergency and recommendations on how to handle similar situations in the future.

Cary Town Manager Bill Coleman said while the report was a good start, several issues would benefit from further analysis by an independent third party.

"The assessment was to provide the town with an honest, accurate, detailed, and complete evaluation of the event, and it did not," said Coleman.

Coleman said he was concerned that there was insufficient specificity as to the cause of the dislodgement and a lack of context for several actions and events. He also said he felt that the recommendations were too generic.

"The bottom line is that we don't have confidence that the assessment provided a full picture of what happened," said Coleman.

The expansion of the Swift Creek station began in August 2005. The city hired contracting firm Laughlin-Sutton to handle the construction and Black & Veatch to oversee the project.

Despite his dissatisfaction with the assessment, Coleman said Black & Veatch would continue on the project team to expand the pump station. Work has continued on the station's expansion.

Coleman also stressed that the issues surrounding the Swift Creek pump station remain among his top priorities, and he said he hopes that they will be resolved within the next 60 days.

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