Nearly two months after a broken sewer main caused more than two million gallons of wastewater to flow into the Reddy Branch Creek in Olney, the cause of the break still is unknown.
The break in the 16” force, or pressurized, sewer main was detected March 5. Repair efforts were hampered by the location of the pipe and nearby utilities. On March 9, the site of the break was determined to be in the 19600 block of Olney Mill Road.
In order to make repairs, the Reddy Branch Wastewater Pumping Station at 2611 Brighton Dam Road in Brookeville was shut down. This caused sewage to overflow from manholes at that site, as well.
WSSC spokeswoman Kira Lewis said as of this week, the cause of the break had not been determined. While the pipe is 44 years old, it is not known if the break was caused by aging infrastructure.
“We are going to conduct a forensic analysis,” she said. “Results of the assessment won’t be known for months.”
Lewis said repairs included the replacement of two sections of the 16” force main. The affected main will be inspected within the next few months.
There are about 135 miles of sewer in the Olney area. Of that, about 75 miles have been cleaned and inspected since 2006, and about nine miles of sewer has been rehabilitated, or is scheduled to be, Lewis said.
The final cost of the repairs and cleanup efforts is yet to be determined.
“WSSC is currently reviewing the invoices for the repair work and will know a final total once this process is completed,” Lewis said.
The agency was assessed $15,000 in fines, to be divided between the Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Clean-up efforts continue. At the site of the break, Lewis said WSSC has removed all contaminated soil and replaced it with new sod and seed. The street has been resurfaced.
Warning signs, which WSSC was required to post in the area of the break and at the pumping station for at least 30 days, have been removed.
Michael Acierno, commission president for the Town of Brookeville, said the town has concerns that the area surrounding the pumping station be properly cleaned up. The town is preparing for archeological digs and other events that will take place as part of their 200th anniversary celebration of the town’s role of the War of 1812.
Acierno sent a letter March 19 outlining his concerns, and received a reply from James Neustadt, WSSC’s director of communications. Neustadt replied that solid waste was removed immediately after the broken pipe was put back in service. Lime and straw were spread across the affected area, and a temporary fence was installed around the area to keep pets and animals away.
Neustadt promised a more detailed response from Jerry Johnson, WSSC’s general manager.
Acierno said as of Monday, he still is awaiting a Johnson’s reply.
The Reddy Branch Creek feeds into the Hawlings River, which feeds into the Patuxent River upstream from WSSC’s Rocky Gorge reservoir. WSSC said the break and subsequent overflow did not affect the quality of drinking water.