SEABROOK – An overflowing pipe sent 5.22 million gallons of wastewater into Broad Creek in the Fort Washington area, but did not affect drinking water, on Aug. 9, according to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC).
The overflow began at approximately 11:12 a.m. and lasted until 11:37 p.m. at the WSSC’s Broad Creek Wastewater Pumping Station. The wastewater that entered the creek that connects with the Potomac River was untreated and released an odor into the surrounding areas. WSSC said that a preliminary cause for the overflow is a pipe, located 30 feet deep in the ground, may have burst. Spokesperson Lyn Riggins said via email that a test for the pipe is planned for Aug. 13 and the results will determine the next step.
Because the pipes for drinking water and wastewater are different, there were no problems with consuming water. Crews worked to stop the sewer overflow during those 12 hours and to clean up the Broad Creek Waste Water Pumping Station and the surrounding areas.
The water from the wastewater collection system includes toilet water as well as water from sinks, showers, washing machines and dishwashers, Riggins said. Lime was used during the cleanup process to mask the smell.
“When this overflow occurred, the wastewater mixed in with the millions and millions of gallons of water in the creek and ultimately the Potomac River,” Riggins said. “There is not a treatment process for the creek.”
WSSC alerted residents that lived near the property through their Customer Notification System and as a request by the Broad Creek community; emails were sent out to nearby neighbors. In order for people to avoid walking into a working area, 165 signs were posted around the area of the overflow. As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to its status as a water commission, when the overflow exceeded 10,000 gallons, WSSC released a news release Friday evening.
Notifications were also made to the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Prince George’s County Health Department. The District 8 offices of Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker sent out a “code orange” email alert to tell residents about the overflow and to avoid the area.
This is the second overflow Broad Creek location in four months. The last one took place on May 20, 2019 and only lasted five minutes. The volume of wastewater that overflowed was 750 gallons. Another overflow occurred in the 2600 block of Baywood Court in Silver Spring where the estimated volume of the overflow was 166 gallons. An investigation found that large amounts of tree roots were stuck in the sewer line. Once they were cleared, the overflow ended.
WSSC is the largest water/wastewater utility in the state of Maryland, serving 1.8 million customers. According to Riggins, once the investigation is completed, they will make any necessary repairs. The agency invested more than $1 billion since 2005 to upgrade and improve the wastewater collection system in an effort to reduce overflows throughout our service area.
“The Broad Creek Waste Water Pumping Station project is part of this historic investment,” Riggins said. “This project is designed to increase capacity at the pumping station and in the basin collection system with the desired result of reducing overflows. This project should be (fully) complete in spring 2020.”