An aerial view where the Williams Lake empties into the Fraser River below taken Tuesday, April 28. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

City of Williams Lake: raw sewage leak confirmed Thursday repaired in the river valley Friday (May 1)

About 12,960,000 litres of effluent was released into the environment in five days

Almost 24 hours after it was confirmed raw sewage was flowing into the Williams Lake River Valley, crews successfully stopped the leak Friday at about noon.

The original sewer line break discovered Sunday, April 26, however, is not fixed yet and pre-treated sewage continues to flow because of it.

“Two days ago we had suspicions that raw sewage was leaking into the creek and confirmed it Thursday at about 2 p.m.,” the city’s director of municipal services Gary Muraca told the Tribune. “We worked until 9:30 into the evening trying to figure out how it was leaking, what we could do and how to stop it.”

When crews lost light Thursday, they made the decision to pull out and return in the morning when they could have more workers and eyes on each side of the river, he explained.

Early Friday, with a helicopter landing operators on each side to make sure repair efforts weren’t backing up the grit removal plant, crews were back at the site and began to fix a blockage in the internal plumbing of the sewage lagoons that was causing the problem.

Original sewer line rupture still not fixed

Crews have been unable to access the ruptured main sewer line due to high water levels and washed out roads.

When asked what pre-treated means, Muraca said it has only gone through about 10 days of its 30-day cycle of treatment that it normally goes through before it is ready to be released into the environment.

As for determining just how much pre-treated and untreated sewage has been released since Sunday, Muraca said the flow rate at its peak is 58 litres per second, but the average daily flow is about 30 litres per second.

Taking 30 litres per second rate and timing that by seconds, minutes, hours, and days, the total would be about 12,960,000 litres in five days, flowing ultimately to the Fraser River.

Crews continue to bring in rocks to rebuild the roads, and shore up the perimeter of the sewage lagoons with riprap as well as work on restoring power poles and power lines to the site.

On Thursday evening the Williams Lake Indian Band issued an abatement order to the City calling for assurance from the Ministry of Environment of an appropriate response.

Read more: Pollution abatement order issued to City of Williams Lake for ongoing sewage spill

A co-ordination call was held earlier Thursday by the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to share incident related information and updates with all involved groups.

The B.C. government in its ‘Williams Lake Creek Sewage Spill’ notice posted at 5:45 p.m. Thursday on its website stated the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, City of Williams Lake, Williams Lake Indian Band, Tŝilhqot’in Nation, Esk’etemc Band, Xatśūll Soda Creek First Nations, Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, First Nations Health Authority, Interior Health Authority, Emergency Management B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Environment and Climate Change Canada, are all involved with the response.

Read more: Power to be restored to sewage lagoons in Williams Lake river valley

Residents are still being asked to keep water use to a minimum to reduce the flow into the sewage treatment facility.

The evacuation order for 11 properties in the industrial area remains in effect and the evacuation alert for Green Acres Mobile Home is also still in place.

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