Untreated sewage continued to pour out of the ground Tuesday above a broken sewer main in Lexington's Hamburg area as officials scurried to get an emergency work order and parts to repair it.
The sewage, flowing at an estimated 300 to 500 gallons a minute, was being pumped into two other sewer lines, said Rod Chervus, a collection and conveyance manager with the city's Division of Water Quality.
Some also was flowing into an unnamed tributary of Bryan Station Creek at what appeared to be an increasing rate.
That tributary, along with the sewage being pumped, was expected to be diverted into the larger of the two sewer lines before work stopped Tuesday night, Chervus said.
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The state Division of Water was at the scene Tuesday, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources was notified.
Chervus said sewage in the creek could cause the amount of dissolved oxygen downstream to drop, harming creatures that live in the creek. Once the flow of sewage is stopped, he said, the oxygen "pops right back up."
The city approved an emergency order Tuesday to repair the broken main. Because parts must be obtained, it could be late Wednesday before repair can begin. The spill was reported Monday afternoon.
Workers put up a temporary fence between the spilling sewage and Liberty Elementary School before students return Wednesday morning. They also strung a fence between the spill and a private pool at a nearby development.
The broken line is a 24-inch force main that carries about 2,000 gallons of sewage a minute from the North Elkhorn Pump Station east of town to the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant on the west side of town.
The line was installed in 1980, at the same time the original pump station was built. During the past dozen years, it has broken eight times, the most recent break coming about a year ago, said Mark York, a spokesman for the water quality division.
In a news release, Mayor Jim Newberry called the pipe's record of breaks "absolutely unacceptable" and said it was one of the many sewer problems the city is trying to correct after reaching a settlement last year with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The pump station was replaced in March.
Work is under way to replace the force main. It will be retained as a backup after possibly having a smaller line placed inside it, Chervus said.
The underground line apparently is not completely ruptured, Chervus said, or more sewage would be coming up.
As it is, sewage was spurting from the ground in half a dozen spots on a hillside near Star Shoot Parkway and Flying Ebony Drive.
From there it flowed downhill toward the tributary.
The elementary school is at the top of a slope on the other side of the creek.
A dam has been built to catch the sewage, and two pumps are sending it into the smaller gravity sewer lines, Chervus said. But that dam became less effective as the day went on Tuesday.
An 8-inch line closest to the spill was getting some of the pumped sewage. More was being pumped to a 15-inch line farther away.
Workers planned to build a dam across the tributary about 500 feet downstream, which is closer to the 15-inch line, then dig a trench so the sewage would flow into the larger sewer.
That temporary solution has its drawbacks: The 8- and 15-inch lines are carrying the spilled sewage back to the pump station, where it was being put into the 24-inch force main again, and some is spilling again.