A sewage spill that occurred Tuesday afternoon at a Williamsport wastewater treatment plant pump station along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park downstream of the Cushwa turning basin was started by a power surge in the station, a town spokesman said Thursday.
It was the second sewage spill at the site in a little more than a year.
When the power surge occurred at about 12:10 p.m., it destroyed a control panel in the station, said town Clerk/Treasurer Donnie Stotelmyer.
The way station is designed, the system must gradually wind down before a back-up generator comes on, Stotelmyer said.
Before the generator came on, sewage backed up, rose out of a manhole and spilled a “small amount” of sewage in the area off Lockwood Road, Stotelmyer said.
Stotelmyer, who said it was unclear exactly how much sewage spilled, said the system resumed regular operations at 12:15 p.m.
Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said Wednesday night that the area was cordoned off with yellow caution tape and Stotelmyer said a sign has been posted at the site warning people about the spill.
The sign says an amount of undetermined volume of non-treated wastewater was released from the town’s collection system, according to Stotelmyer.
The sign recommends people avoid contact with water in the Potomac River and the canal in the area through activities such as fishing and swimming, Stotelmyer said.
The sign must remain posted for 10 days, Stotelmyer said.
The pump station is a city facility but the sewage is pumped to a county plant, Stotelmyer said.
The spill occurred at the same location where a “significant” amount of sewage spilled onto the towpath in last year, Stotelmyer said.
In that incident, there was a “triple failure” in the sewage system.
At the time of that spill, an overhaul was being conducted on the pumping station, and until the work was completed, sewage was being diverted to a backup pump, McCleaf said at the time.
The spill occurred when a primary pump, a backup pump and telemetry that monitors functionality all failed, according to county health officials.