A little more than a week ago near the intersection of Manchester Avenue and I-5. The incident happened Dec. 28 when a 38-year old sewer main — which was scheduled for replacement in early 2012 — failed, causing sewage to surge out of a manhole near the It now appears none of that sewage polluted the sensitive marshland, thanks in large part to the response by Encinitas city crews.
“We were on-site within 10 minutes,” said Encinitas Wastewater Field Supervisor Ben Taylor in a city release. Taylor, who has 30 years of industry experience, said crews also notified regional and state agencies and called on neighboring communities for backup. “People responded, as we did, in a heartbeat and within minutes we had staff and equipment from the City of Carlsbad Utilities Department, Leucadia Wastewater District and Rancho Santa Fe Community Services District supporting our efforts.”
Shawn Atherton, Encinitas Wastewater Superintendent, said the location of the sewage spill also proved to help crews complete the task of managing it.
“The failure occurred close to an open swale on Manchester Avenue, into which an estimated 677,600 gallons of sewage spilled,” he said. “We knew we had only about 45 minutes to manage the incident before the leak began flooding out to the lagoon. We quickly dammed up all outlets leading to the lagoon, placed sandbags and plywood to contain the sewage, had a number of pumping trucks going like mad and hustled to do everything needed to contain the problem. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, no sewage reached the lagoon."
As a precaution, the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) temporarily closed after the sewage spill on Dec. 28. After water samples taken on Dec. 29 tested below acceptable limits, the beach was re-opened to the public on Dec. 30.
In an effort to avoid any more sewage spills while the failure was being corrected, a contractor created a temporary fix following the city’s direction. Crews excavated the sewer force main at the pump station and provided a by-pass line to move sewage from the pump station to the treatment plant on San Elijo Avenue through the existing force main, thus by-passing the damaged portion.
Pointing out that is was about 24 hours from the time the sewage spill was first detected to the final cleanup, Encinitas Public Works Director Larry Watt applauded city staff for its efforts.
“Our proactive focus on preventive maintenance of the city’s infrastructure, including miles of sewer lines, water lines and roads, normally keeps these kinds of issues from occurring. When we do have a failure, we are trained to respond quickly, no matter what time of day or night. I’m very proud of the way our crews responded. Thanks to them and to supporting staff from neighboring agencies, we ended 2011 on a pollution-free note.”