Sewer Pipe Ruptures, Waste Spills into Russian River

It's unknown how many gallons spilled into the river.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
By Bay City News Service

A 16-inch diameter underground sewer pipe ruptured early this afternoon in Guerneville, spilling untreated wastewater into the Russian River, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Water Agency said.

The spill at the corner of Beach and Orchard avenues was discovered at 12:20 p.m.

A resident in the area noticed a small leak in the pipe around 11 p.m. Wednesday, and repair crews were at the scene this afternoon when the pipe ruptured, Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said.

The majority of the spill, estimated at 30,000 to 40,000 gallons per hour, is being pumped into eight tanker trucks and taken to the Russian River County Sanitation District Treatment Plant at Vacation Beach about one-quarter mile from the spill, Sherwood said.

The treatment plant, built in 1983, handles an average of 300,000 gallons of wastewater a day in dry weather and is capable of handling 710,000 gallons.

It's unknown how many gallons spilled into the river, but because of the heavy rain last weekend, the river is currently flowing at 1,900 cubic feet per second in the area, Sherwood said.

"There are no physical signs of environmental impacts," Sherwood said.

The pipe that ruptured is at least 50 years old, Sherwood said. Crews will install 10 to 12 feet of mortar-lined pipes to replace the broken section of pipe, Sherwood said.

"We hope to wrap this up Friday morning," Sherwood said.

The Sweetwater Springs Water District said the drinking water it provides to Guerneville residents is safe.

"We turned off our wells and are using water in our storage tanks until the leak is fixed, so we need customers to cut back water use today and tomorrow until notice is given that the wells are back on," the District's general manager Steve Mack said.

Wastewater maintenance and work crews, including biologists, responded to the sewage spill, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sonoma County Health Services and Fire and Emergency Services were notified, Sherwood said.

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