Wastewater flowed into Joe's Branch

A sewer spill resulted in 3,500 gallons of untreated wastewater flowing into Joe’s Branch on Monday in Havelock.

City Manager Frank Bottorff said the sewage that was diluted with rainwater spilled from a manhole cover between Oakwood Drive and Pineview Street between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

He said the heavy rainfall the area had experienced over the last few days was behind the spill.

“It’s basically just because during the heavy rain, there was so much rain on the ground that water covering multiple manholes gets infiltration into the system, and there is just too much flow to go down the pipe,” he said.

He called the 3,500-gallon spill small, and said because it flowed into Joe’s Branch, a drainage canal that flows into Slocum Creek, the city’s permit with the state required the public be notified.

He called the spilled sewage “significantly diluted” with rainwater.

“Most of that was probably rainwater that was infiltrated, but it was mixed with sewer water,” Bottorff said. “It’s not like it blew the manhole cover off. It was just leaking out of the manhole cover.”

Bottorff said the spill had nothing to do with the city’s sewer plant, which is located about 1 1/2 miles away on Jackson Drive.

“It is a gravity system, so it’s going to the low point and going out, and the pumps were trying to get as much into the plant as quickly as possible, but there is only so much flow that can go through that size pipe,” Bottorff said. “There were no citizen complaints nor do we think there were any citizens impacted by this directly.”

The Havelock area had experienced 14 consecutive days of rain totaling more than 16 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

“As spills go, luckily this was a relatively minor spill,” Bottorff said. “There’s nothing we can do to prevent it. There is really not much we can do to enhance the system to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.

“We’ve had kind of an unnatural amount of rain in the last two weeks and it culminated with a fairly significant rain event (Monday) during this period,” he said. “Luckily we were prepared at the plant and we didn’t have any problems with this at all.”

Bottorff said he did not anticipate any fines from the state because of the spill.

The city recently completed a relocation of its sewer pipe from Slocum Creek to the Neuse River and installed a larger discharge pipe. The $11.5 million project increased the city’s permitted sewer capacity from 1.9 million gallons per day to 2.25 million gallons per day.