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27,000 Gallons of Sewage Spilled Into Falls Run, Stafford County Says

By Susan Larson. Screen shot of Stafford County’s original announcement about the spill.

Stafford County now estimates 27,000 gallons of sewage entered Falls Run on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015.

“Stafford Utilities determined late on Monday, August 24, 2015, that a sewage spill had occurred in Falls Run, upstream from the Historic Port of Falmouth Park, due to the failure of a plug in the pipe system,” the county announced on its website (screen shot attached with this article). This original notification from Stafford County to county residents did not include the extent of the spill.

“You have the wrong information,” David Allen wrote after Fredericksburg.Today published the information provided by Stafford County. “The spill was from the pump house flowing into the creek. I was told over 30,000 gallons, but could have been more! …. They caused it by shutting down one pump at Brooks Park and rerouting the sewage to Washington Street, and since this was not the first time that has happened in the last three weeks, the pump could not handle it and it flowed out of the pump to the river, a utilities official told me today!”

View Mr. Allen’s photos on Facebook

We contacted Stafford County Administrator Anthony J. Romanello for clarification of the details. Deputy County Administrator Keith C. Dayton promptly responded. Following is his unedited response.

Ms. Larson:

“I am answering your questions on behalf of Mr. Romanello. Below is a more detailed explanation of the recent events that was provided to a resident of Falmouth, among others. I believe it answers your request for more information.

“Our Utilities Department became aware of a break in a major sewage force main (a pressure pipe conveying raw sewage from a pump station to a downstream location) in St. Claire Brooks Park. This is the third time recently that this pipe has failed in the same general area, and in order to make the repair, the large pumping station on Washington Street had to be taken out of service. While the station was out of service, we used septic hauler trucks to transport sewage to a downstream location. Due to the size of the pumping station, crews also used a smaller pump to transfer flow to a nearby manhole which flows to the River Road Pump Station.

“This increased flow in the gravity lines running to the River Road PS caused one of the man-holes to surcharge higher than normal. This increased depth in the manhole allowed flow to enter an abandoned line which led to the Falls Run Creek and eventually the Rappahannock River upstream from Falmouth Beach. The abandoned line had been plugged; however, the plug has failed, allowing sewage to enter the creek. Crews will permanently seal the manhole today to ensure this abandoned and broken line does not receive flow in the future. We also made a more extensive repair of the force main in the problem area, and are planning a total replacement of the pipe in the future.

“In order to ensure the safety of our citizens, signs will be posted along the creek and Falmouth Beach to notify citizens of the sewage spill and to caution them against entering the water. Falmouth Beach will also be closed until further notice. Testing will be done today to determine if bacteria levels are at a safe condition. Once the testing has proven the levels are safe, the beach will be reopened. The bacteria test is a 24 hour test; therefore the beach may be closed through tomorrow.

“To answer your other questions, we estimated 27,000 gallons of sewage entered the creek. We calculated this based on the time we estimated the discharge was occurring, and the rate we were pumping. County staff has collected the samples and taken them to our Little Falls Run Wastewater Plant for testing. We have a lab with personnel certified for this test. The first test results will be available later today. We are required, and have done so, to notify the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality whenever sewage is discharged into state waters.”

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