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Wastewater escapes to Mill Creek

Faulty pump contacts cause release: DNR investigates spillage

SOLON– A pump malfunction at the Solon wastewater treatment plant apparently caused thousands of gallons of partially-treated sludge water to be released into Mill Creek.
Public Works Director Scott Kleppe told city council members at a Dec. 4 meeting bad contacts in a pump had caused it to turn itself on Monday evening, Dec. 2.
“There’s nothing on that tank that alerts us of a high level or an overflow situation,” Kleppe reported.
The pump continued to run until it was discovered Tuesday morning by public works staff, he said.
The discharge was stopped immediately, he said, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was notified.
According to a DNR press release, city officials estimated 100,000 to 120,000 gallons of partially treated sludge water flowed overland into the creek.
Kleppe said City Administrator Cami Rasmussen and Engineer Dave Schechinger were also notified and an electrician was summoned for repairs.
By the time the DNR arrived, he said, the electrical malfunction was in the process of being repaired.
To further address the problem, the city has requested a proposal for a level alarm for the tank and an interconnect to shut down the pump if it reached a high enough level, Kleppe noted.
Schechinger additionally recommended steps to redirect any overflow back to the head works of the plant so it never escapes the tank, he said.
Kleppe said the improvements would be integrated into North Trunk Sewer project.
DNR staff collected water samples from the creek for laboratory analysis. They did not see any signs of a fish kill in the creek. However, they recommended residents keep children and pets out of the creek for 24 to 48 hours or until laboratory results come in.
The city also issued a press release announcing the accidental overflow from the digester. The release recommended people and pets avoid entering the creek or drinking its water. It also noted the city’s municipal water supply was not impacted.
Kleppe said public works employees applied lime to the discharge which had pooled on the ground to increase its ph. DNR staff seemed satisfied with the city’s response and did not see any initial evidence of serious environmental impact. He applauded his public works staff, Rasmussen and Schechinger for their quick response to the situation.
According to the DNR release, park staff at Lake Macbride State Park expected a temporary silt dam on Mill Creek to prevent any wastewater from entering the lake.
The DNR’s release said staff would continue to monitor the creek and lake for possible environmental impacts and would consider appropriate enforcement action.