Potential health hazard exists for residents downstream
By Polly Lynn
RUTLAND– Untreated sewage leaked into East Creek in the City of Rutland, the Rutland Department of Public Works announced Friday, Aug. 7. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) were notified and are helping to investigate the cause and effects of the leak. Health officers in Rutland City, Rutland Town, and the Town of Proctor were also notified and the stretches of river from the point of release downstream to Proctor dam have also been posted with signage warning the public to avoid contact with the water.
Drinking water has remained unaffected.
The problem was first identified around twelve-noon on Aug. 6 when a routine inspection turned up a plume of light-colored material entering East Creek from the creek bottom in the area of the West Street Bridge, explained Ernie Kelley, Wastewater Management Program manager for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in a press release Friday.
Dye testing showed that the leak was coming from an abandoned sewer pipe. The pipe was found to be receiving wastewater through a connection that was sealed in 1970. The seal had apparently failed, slowly filling the pipe with sewage and eventually leaking into the creek.
DEC staff and city officials were on-site investigating the incident and making temporary fixes Friday; more permanent repairs were scheduled to begin Monday.
Originally, officials had estimated that up to 150,000 gallons of sewage was discharged into the East Creek, which empties into Otter Creek approximately one half mile downstream. However, that number has not been verified and Jeffrey Wennberg, commissioner of the city Department of Public Works, thinks it was much less due to the frequency of testing that is done in that particular area.
“It is not known how long the pipe has been leaking but the area is inspected frequently due to critical wastewater infrastructure in the area and concern for failures such as this. The exact volume of sewage that entered East Creek is also unknown,” stated the City of Rutland Department of Public Works in a Facebook post, Aug. 7.
The Vermont Department of Health advised local officials to post signs indicating that the water may not be safe around all swimming holes, boat launch and active fishing locations between West Street and Proctor. “People should avoid contact with the water in this area until the repair is completed and the notices removed,” the DPW post continued.