3 Million Gallons Of Sewage Spill Into Kansas River, City Begins Cleanup

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- On Monday, 13 NEWS first reported on the roughly three million gallons of sewage that poured into the Kansas River over the past weekend. The spill started about 1:00 p.m. on and wasn't noticed until a Topeka city worker spotted a power failure around noon two days later.

"I have never seen this identical situation before. I have not," said the city's Topeka Water Pollution Control Superintendent Bob Sample, who has worked in the field for four decades. Sample called the situation serious.

"I'm saddened, absolutely," Sample continued. "My stomach churned, my heart sunk - an estimated three million gallons."

A Potential Fine

The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment (KDHE) told 13 NEWS the agency is in the process of sampling river water to determine the impact of the spill.

After it completes its investigation, the KDHE will determine if a fine is warranted.

According to Sample, one of the problems for the City is that its employees haven't monitored the pump station over the weekends, so the problem wasn't discovered until Monday.

"A city staff member noticed some unusual flows at the north Topeka plant and made the call to the stand-by crew that we have," Sample said.

He explained the south Kansas River pump station's power failed causing the the uninterrupted power supply, which is similar to a back-up generator, to fail.

"So, then, at that point in time, there was no communication going to our computer where we monitor that pump station," he continued.

Not Just Topeka's Problem

Downstream, the City of Lawrence worries about about those millions of gallons of sewage floating its way.

To stem the tide, the City is decreasing the water flow coming from the Kansas River and relying more on its Clinton Water treatment Plant to make up the difference, Lawrence Management Analyst Jeanette Klamm said.

The City has also increased the treatment levels at the Kaw Water Treatment Plant.

While Sample said the situation can be fixed, he added that no one is downplaying the seriousness of the environmental accident. The department will continue to monitor the fecal bacterial counts.

And, from now on, Topeka will have water pollution control workers monitoring pump stations seven days a week.

Officials still investigating sewage in Kansas River.

Posted by WIBW Doug Brown on Tuesday, April 28, 2015