Blocked Pipe Causes Spokane Sewage Spill

A blockage in an 8-in. pipe caused raw sewage to spill into the Spokane River in Spokane, Wash. The spill went on for days, and possibly longer, before it was discovered and then fixed.

A fisherman discovered the leak after he found sewage and needles in the water. Health officials warned against swimming or any other recreational use of the river. A blast from a water truck was used to remove the blockage, which had forced sewage into a 24-in. overflow pipe.

The outflow was near the municipal sewage treatment plant, where a worker was killed on May 10, 2004, after the collapse of a tank. The collapse in 2004 also injured two others and spilled about 20,000 gallons of untreated waste into the river.

A foaming, brown fluid spilled out of the overflow pipe until the repairs were completed. The health warning was placed upon the river from a quarter-mile above the blockage to several miles downstream. An unusual growth of brown algae indicated that the leak had been going on for longer than a few days.