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.
Here’s our 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.