Leak sends 100,000 gallons of sewage into Central Kentucky creek

Officials are still monitoring the waters of Elkhorn Creek after a pressurized sewer line sprung a leak in Scott County Saturday, spewing an estimated 100,000 gallons of raw sewage into the waterway.

As of Tuesday, lab results showed “a ‘high normal’ concentration” of sewage in the creek, according to Michael Hennigan, director of the Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency.

He said in a Facebook post that the water would be tested daily “until everything shows normal.”

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a Facebook post that the Georgetown waste water treatment plant had “estimated that the leak was intermittently pumping 600 gallons per minute for approximately 12 hrs” before it was discovered on Saturday.

The treatment plant “reported pressure and influent anomalies” beginning at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, and the leak was reported by Scott County Emergency Management at about 5 p.m., the cabinet said.

John Mura, spokesman for the cabinet, said he did not have any information about why it took so long for the spill to be found and stopped or what caused the leak.

Hennigan, responding to a question on Facebook, said that the leak was caused by “a crack in a force-main sewage pipe. The pressure on the pipe caused crack to expand to the point of failure. There is no way to predict when a pipe will fail, but we do have programs in place to detect them and respond as soon as possible.”

Mura said such spills typically resolve on their own as the sewage gets flushed away by the water.

“This type of material ... it doesn’t stick around like an oil slick,” Mura said. “...Dilution is the solution.”

The leak was flowing into North Elkhorn Creek near the end of Scotland Road, according to the cabinet.

Hennigan said in a Facebook post that access for boating and recreational water sports was reopened at 1 p.m. Tuesday, but “we recommend refraining from extended contact with the water until the water returns to its pre-release condition later this week.”

Access to the water for boating and swimming had been closed at Oser Landing, Great Crossing and Cardome since Saturday night.

Elkhorn Creek feeds into the Kentucky River.

Mura said the cabinet takes such spills seriously and can levy fines of up to $25,000 per violation per day.

He did not know whether the cabinet would be issuing a “notice of violation” in this case.

“The cabinet’s main concern is to get these things cleaned up and remediated as quickly as possible,” he said.

The leak caused a disruption in holiday plans for people who hoped to spend Memorial Day weekend on the water.

Over the weekend, Canoe Kentucky, in Franklin County, said it had been in touch with emergency management officials and was able to stay open, but the outfitter warned people that “paddling on the creek should be done at your own risk.”

Elkhorn Creek Float Fest, which was scheduled for June 8, has been canceled because of the leak.

Georgetown-Scott County Tourism and Georgetown-Scott County Parks and Recreation announced the cancellation Tuesday, saying that although they “are confident access to the creek will open soon,” they decided it was best “to err on the side of caution.”

People who had already paid for general admission or tube rentals will be issued refunds, the organizations said.

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