Vandalized Cary manhole leads to sewage spill

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — A sewer blockage and release of hundreds of gallons of wastewater was the result of a vandal filling a Cary manhole with rocks.

Wastewater Collections Program Manager Ronald Smith said someone pried a manhole cover from its foundation on Fumagalli Drive. A neighbor noticed sewage overflow Wednesday morning and called the town’s public works department, which sent a crew to control the spill.

“We identified a large number of large stones and wood that was placed in the sewer system, that caused the blockage,” Smith said. “There’s a number of large stone that are right in the proximity of the manhole, which is used for erosion control.”

He said that some people are curious about sewer manholes, but he doesn’t know why anyone would drop dozens of rocks down the drain.

Workers estimate more than 1,350 gallons spilled out from the sewer. Smith said that is a relatively small spill in comparison to the 17 million gallons processed by the town’s wastewater treatment facilities.

“Any time that there’s a sewer overflow where untreated wastewater escapes our sewer system, there’s the opportunity for it to get into the environment and come in contact with citizens and the public,” he said.

“The main goal of our sewer system is to keep it all contained in the pipes so that it can make its way to a waste water treatment plant and be properly treated.”

Clean up crews spent most of Wednesday and much of Thursday clearing the clog. They removed debris and used dechlorinated water to wash out the area where the sewer spill occurred. Workers pumped the wastewater back into the sewer system for treatment.

In addition to traditional equipment such as shovels and basket traps, the team on site Thursday used a robotic underground pressure washers called a sewer jet and a motorized camera that crawls through the pipe.

“This type of work takes them away from their every day cleaning of the sewer system and maintenance of town facilities. We have to get anywhere from six to 10 staff out here to clean up a sewer spill. It takes a lot of very sophisticated equipment that we could be using elsewhere,” Smith said.

“Anyone who accesses the sewer system that is not authorized and places an item in the sewer that can cause a blockage or a back up, it is potentially a vandalism act. There can be a cost associated with all of the clean up and repair of the sewer system. Depending on the size of the spill and the cause of the spill, there can be fines.”

Neighbors near the vandalized manhole told CBS 17 they were unaware of what happened, but were curious about the incident after police responded to the scene Wednesday. They thought the public works crew was doing routine maintenance.
 

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