UPDATE: Most of the sewage was contained in a
nearby wetland. The city and sewer plant operator plan to pump out
the sewage on Monday. Click
here for our latest story on the spill.
Public health officials are warning people to steer clear of
Tani Creek and Blakely Harbor Park’s beach after sewage leaked into
a wetland near the Fort Ward sewage treatment plant.
report from yesterday.
The wetland, which sits next to a public trail, connects to
Tani, which flows into Blakely.
The state Dept. of Ecology warned that “contact with fecal
contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes,
upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the
elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.”
The Kitsap Public Health District has taken water samples from
Tani and Blakely to see how far the contamination spread from the
wetland. Results were expected today, but it looks like we’ll have
to wait until Thursday afternoon for confirmation the sewage spread
beyond the wetland.
Sewer district board member Sarah Lee estimates between 3,000
and 5,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage leaked from a hole in
a 40,000-gallon tank.
The cause of the hole is not yet known, but it doesn’t appear it
was punctured or damaged by force.
The health district isn’t sure how the mess will be cleaned up –
if at all. The sewer district pumped out some of the sewage from
their grounds on Friday, shortly after the leak was discovered.
On Monday, the health district discovered the sewage had
traveled out of the treatment plant property and into the wetland,
which is down-slope of the plant.
It appeared much of the sewage was caught and partially
contained by a “log jam” in the wetland, according to health
district water specialist Stuart Whitford.
Water test results will guide next steps. Cleaning the mess
could include pumping out portions of the wetland. If the testing
shows relatively low levels of contamination, the health district
and Ecology officials may take a hands-off approach.
I’m off for the next two days, so look for environmental
reporter Chris Dunagan’s followup story on the testing results.