Afternoon UPDATE on Sewage Spill: Sunday, August 4 from Westport Fire Department
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich announced as of 8:30 PM Saturday night, the sewage leak in the Saugatuck River was completely stopped and temporary pumps are in place to utilize the newly installed pipe. The temporary set up will be in place until the permanent pumps are installed next month.
The Town has been in close communication with the CT DEEP Water Monitoring and the Weston-Westport Health District. Water quality testing will be performed on Monday in an effort to re-open the beaches. Swimming at all Westport beaches, including Sherwood Island will remain off-limits today, Sunday, in an abundance of caution.
First Selectman Marpe reiterated his thanks to the Town and State departments in their prompt and appropriate response to the incident. He also stated, “We appreciate the cooperation of our residents and visitors not using the beaches for swimming until we receive the all-clear from the Health District and DEEP.”
Breaking health advisory for all Westport beaches and the Saugatuck River
At approximately 1:30pm yesterday, Saturday, August 3, the Westport Fire Department personnel were notified by a person in the area of a reported sewage leak in the Saugatuck River. "This leak was in the area of the I95 overpass. Engine 4 responded to the area and found what appeared to be sewage flowing up from under the river to the surface," Town Westport authorities said.
Westport Police and Westport Parks and Recreation notified swimmers to exit the water and remain onshore. Westport Police also made the proper notifications to ensure that no shellfishing occurred. Sherwood Island was closed to swimmers by DEEP personnel.
As of approximately 6:30 pm yesterday, there was still a controlled leak with additional pumping vehicles on their way. It was determined that the Town of Westport beaches, as well as the Sherwood Island State Park beaches, would remain closed for swimming until testing verifies the water is safe to swim in.
Please read the official Press Release below from the Town of Westport:
The Public Works Department was immediately notified and a representative responded. This also set into motion other activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the spill and erring on the side of caution. As is standard practice, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was notified. Also notified was the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Additional fire department personnel responded to the scene. A joint effort was made between the Westport Fire, Police, Sewer Department, Health Department, Conservation, Selectman's Office as well as the State Health Department and DEEP to determine a plan of action.
The Sewer Department immediately ensured that the pumps were shut down and called in multiple vacuum trucks to manually haul the sewage across the river to the treatment plant. Under consult with the Health Department and Selectman’s Office, it was decided that the beaches would be closed for swimming.
A public advisory was broadcasted via the town’s emergency notification system, and the state was advised of the precautions that Westport was taking. The State agreed with the proactive efforts and followed suit. Westport Police and Westport Parks and Recreation notified swimmers to exit the water and remain onshore. Westport Police also made the proper notifications to ensure that no shell fishing occurred. Sherwood Island was closed to swimmers by DEEP personnel.
As of approximately 6:30 pm yesterday, there was still a controlled leak with additional pumping vehicles on their way. It was determined that the Town of Westport beaches, as well as the Sherwood Island State Park beaches, would remain closed for swimming until testing verifies the water is safe to swim in. The Health Department advised that testing will generally be performed approximately 24 hours after the spill. Testing is currently scheduled for Monday. Aquarion Water was contacted and they advised town officials that there was no cause for concern regarding contamination of the public wells.
Westport officials identified the need to replace the aging pipe and took measures to address the issue before it became a problem. Selectman Marpe was quoted as saying, “We identified the need to replace the current sewer pipe three years ago and were very close to completion. My thanks go out to the town and state departments in their prompt and appropriate response to the incident”. A new pipe has already been run under the riverbed and pumps were in the process of being installed to handle the increased capacity.
According to the Public Works Director, the new pipe was scheduled to be put into service within the next two weeks. This process will be expedited in light of today's events. The Sewer Department will continue to work with DEEP as well as state and local health departments to ensure that the safety and health of residents and guests remain paramount.