The Washington Post

Hurricane Irene causes overflows at sewage plants

Perhaps you saw the story about sewage overflows in the waterways due to Hurricane Irene.

It’s even worse than the story reported.

In addition to the 200 million gallons of rain and raw sewage that overwhelmed the pumps of DC Water, and the 61,200 gallons of diluted wastewater from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s Fort Washington pumping station into Piscataway Creek Sunday (for 11 1/2 hours), the WSSC reported three other overflows which doubled the reported total.

Some 4.3 million gallons of diluted sewage overflowed in Upper Marlboro for 14 hours Sunday, about 13.7 million gallons overflowed at an Accokeek wastewater treatment plant during a 4 1/2 hour event late Saturday and early Sunday, and 2 million more gallons of diluted sewage overflowed at the Broad Creek Wastewater Pumping Station in Fort Washington from 9:50 p.m Saturday through 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

WSSC notified the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Prince George’s County Health Department of the overflow.

As the original story reported, the level of fecal coliform that contains human waste far exceeds acceptable levels following rains. It is one reason the District’s health department maintains a ban on swimming in the city’s rivers and creeks.

“Overflows are . . . quite common throughout Maryland, throughout the region, and throughout even the U.S,” Jay G. Sakai, director of the Water Management Administration of the state agency, told the Bay Daily, which is published by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “This is a problem that we all have to work together to help fix.”

“Potentially harmful substances may also be present in these discharges,” according to DC Water’s Web site. “For larger rainfalls, greater than 1 inch . . . effects . . . on water quality can last up to three days.”

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.


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