Fayette County

No timetable for repair of leaking sewer in Hamburg area

It's not yet known when a leaking sewer main in Lexington's Hamburg area will be repaired.

"The North Elkhorn force main apparently is a unique size, so we're having to have a part custom made for it," Mark York, a spokesman for the city's Division of Water Quality, said Wednesday.

The stainless steel part, an insert that will fit inside the existing pipe, is being made in Colorado, York said.

York initially said it was scheduled to arrive in Lexington on Friday, but Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Newberry, said later that, because the pipe is having to be manufactured, the city is uncertain when it will arrive.

Straub said workers have been contacting other cities, too, hoping to find a replacement part that meets the specifications.

The spilling sewage problem is on a hillside near Star Shoot Parkway and Flying Ebony Drive.

Sewage had been pouring out of the ground from half a dozen places since someone at an adjacent swimming pool reported it Monday afternoon. City officials estimate that 300 to 500 gallons a minute are being spilled. The 24-inch force main carries 2,000 gallons a minute, so officials suspect the line has a hole in it but is not completely ruptured.

The line was installed in 1980. It has broken eight times over the past dozen years. It is being replaced as part of the city's lawsuit settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but will be used as a backup line.

Sewage is running down the hill to an unnamed tributary of Bryan Station Creek, which in turn runs into North Elkhorn Creek. On a rise on the other side of the tributary is Liberty Elementary School, where school began Wednesday. A temporary fence has been stretched between the school and the sewage.

For a while, workers tried to keep the sewage out of the tributary by diverting it into two smaller sewer lines.

By late Tuesday, the flow of sewage into the creek was increasing. That night, workers with Todd Johnson Contracting, which has been contracted to do the repair, had created a dam about 500 feet downstream. Sewage reaching the dam was being diverted into the larger of the other two sewer lines.

But Wednesday morning, with the normal flow increase that comes from people preparing to go to work and school, the flow became too much and was again going into the creek.

York said additional work on the dam later in the day has solved most of that problem.

"Very little material is getting past that dam and into the creek," York said. "I can't tell you how much, but the water is not that cloudy."

Readings of dissolved oxygen taken downstream were improving, York said.

Water from a storm sewer was entering the tributary downstream of the dam and helping dilute the sewage that was getting through, he said.

A state Division of Water employee was at the site early Tuesday but had been called away to another problem Wednesday.

Allison Fleck, a spokeswoman from the state agency, said in a statement Wednesday that the sewage flow into creek had ceased and that Lexington was "responding to the incident in an appropriate manner."

People should avoid "contact with water bodies affected by the spill due to high levels of bacteria contamination," the statement said.

In an interview, Fleck said she had no information about sewage getting into the tributary Tuesday or Wednesday.

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