City of Topeka evaluates cause of sewage spill

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Three million gallons of sewage spilled into the Kansas River over the weekend, and now the City of Topeka is taking a closer look to figure out why.

Many residents wonder why it took so long to find the leak and now they also worry what a spill that large means for public health.

“It’s a significant amount of overflow,” said Bob Sample, General Manager for Topeka Water Pollution Control.

Just how significant for public health, state tests are still trying to determine.

The sewage spilled into an area of the Kansas river from a pumping station just north of I-70 and MacVicar starting Friday afternoon.

The City of Topeka says it was all caused by a power outage and the subsequent failure of backup pumping systems. The pumping station is only checked occasionally by employees, sometimes only once a day. Most of the time the city relies on an electronic monitoring system to alert them to any issues, but that system didn’t failed Friday too, allowing sewage to seep into the river until Sunday.

“I’m saddened by the whole situation because our mission here at the Water Pollution control division is protection of the environment and public health through the management of wastewater and storm water,” said Sample.

Although the City says contamination shouldn’t pose any significant risk to residents, one Oakland man tells KSNT News he used to fish on the river, and this is just one example why he doesn’t any more.

“The river ain’t any good and the fish ain’t no good in the river anymore and they got signs down in Lawrence telling you not to eat the fish,” said Dennis Kerley.

City officials say the river water should still be safe, but for the time being they suggest taking some precautions if you do come in direct contact with any of the water.

Moving forward the city will continue investigating why all those systems failed and how they can prevent it from happening again in the future.

If the Kansas Department of Health finds the water samples they’ve collected pose a significant enough risk to public health, the City of Topeka could face fines.

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