Major sewer line breaks in Newport News; people warned not to walk, drive through water

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A major wastewater line broke Monday on 16th Street in Newport News.

The break happened between Garden Drive and Walnut Avenue, and residents and motorists have been asked to avoid the area and follow detour signs. The 36-inch primary force main line carries wastewater to the Boat Harbor Treatment Plant, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District says.

According to officials, there was standing water in the streets as of 3:30 p.m. As of that time, service hadn’t been affected and the water hadn’t breached anyone’s homes, although some got into some yards.

Once crew diverted the line, they would start the cleanup, HRSD officials said.

People should not walk in the water or drive through it.

The pipe is part of a two-mile, $16-million pipe replacement project that’s currently underway.

HRSD said crews would be working around the clock to divert the flow of wastewater away from the neighborhood and to make repairs. Residents should expect long-term construction.

The spill also forced a temporary emergency shellfish closure in parts of the James River and its tributaries in Newport News, Suffolk and Isle of Wight County. The closure will be from Jan. 5 to 25, unless water testing shows bacteria levels are in the safe zone sooner.

Health officials called the spill a “significant sewage release.”

Shellfish impacted include oysters and clams, but not crabs or finfish, the health department said.

Shellfish taken from the area during the closure could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

A map of the affected area is posted on the Division of Shellfish Safety’s home page.

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