Local News

Officials: Durham sewage leak went undetected for 2 weeks

Posted August 2, 2019 6:28 p.m. EDT

— More than 400,000 gallons of untreated sewage poured into a Durham waterway for weeks before anyone noticed, officials said.

Durham County officials said a pipe collapse off of TW Alexander Drive caused the problem, but none of the sewage got into residents' drinking water.

"It's significant – not the largest that we've ever had, but significant," said Stephanie Brixey, with Durham County.

Brixey said a county worker discovered the spill two days ago because he smelled it as he drove by. She said she believes it started two weeks ago.

"In this situation, unless there was an odor complaint, we wouldn't have known. All of our inspections had been completed, and during inspection, nothing was noted," she said.

Brixey says the sewage made its way from the tributary to Burdens Creek, but it did not reach Jordan Lake, which is a source of drinking water.

"We'll continue our normal investigations and checks of our pipes. We have a schedule that we follow. This is just one of those incidents with a stream bank erosion that was uncontrollable," Brixey said.

She says the city does more inspections than the state requires, and there are too many lines to check them more often.

The good news, she says, is that, as officials continue to pump out the sewage, they have not seen any environmental or public health impact.

"We've been pulling samples and running analysis, and we are seeing that the flushing and cleaning efforts we're doing are working," Brixey said.

The county said that, if anyone ever smells sewage, to report it immediately.