A sewer leak into Percival Creek went undetected for five days over Memorial Day Weekend. As a result, the Washington Department of Ecology fined the city of Olympia $15,000. The city has paid the penalty.
A blockage by rags and other material caused a temporary sewer line to back up and overflow, starting Friday evening, May 22, 2020. Contractors working to replace a footbridge and sewer line damaged in a storm last winter noticed the leak when they arrived at the site on Tuesday, May 26. The city estimated that as much as 232,560 gallons of sewage entered the creek.
Untreated sewage contains high levels of bacteria and other pathogens that can spread disease and harm water quality.
“This spill could have been prevented,” said Ecology’s regional Water Quality Program Supervisor Andrew Kolosseus. “A communications failure left the work site unattended through the holiday weekend. Even a daily visit – by either city or contractor staff – would have made this a much shorter and smaller spill.”
City and contractor crews repaired the leak on May 26. City crews were unable to recover any sewage from the creek or its shorelines. The10-inch pipe serves about 100 homes near the Capital Auto Mall area.
“Any sewer spill is one too many,” said Eric Christensen, Olympia Water Resources Director. “The city accepts responsibility for the miscommunication that led to the extent of the sewer spill. As soon as we were aware of the spill, we responded immediately. The spill was related to an emergency repair of the Percival Utility Bridge and sewer line, originally damaged during a storm. The city invested more than $1.1 million to make permanent repairs, which are now complete.”
Ecology water quality penalty payments go to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund. The fund issues grants to public agencies and tribes for water quality restoration projects.