After more than two weeks of construction site preparation and stabilizing bypass operations, Charlotte Water is replacing 140 feet of broken wastewater pipe north of 4100 Oakdale Road. Pipe replacement will take at least two days.
“Charlotte Water continues to make progress in reducing overflows,” said Cam Coley, spokesperson for Charlotte Water. “Unfortunately in this case we were not able to find it fast enough with the storms and remote location. We appreciate our customers’ help keeping a look out for our large pipe network. If you ever see or suspect a water main break or wastewater spill, please call 311 anytime.”
Charlotte Water staff is monitoring operations around the clock to prevent additional spills while wastewater is being pumped around the broken pipe. Crews prevented a spill that would have been caused by a ball of rags. A friendly reminder to only put toilet paper in the toilet…
Last Wednesday, contractors set up large bypass lines and pumps to capture wastewater from the end of the broken pipe and pump it across the land to the nearest manhole redirecting the waste around the break. Bypass pumping allows staff to replace the pipe without interrupting service to customers or discharging additional wastewater into the nearby stream. Bypass operations are monitored periodically but over the weekend, monitoring frequency was increased due to vandalism and a secondary spill.
Upon arriving on the site around 7:30 am Sunday, a Charlotte Water supervisor found a bypass pump hose failure. The bypass line was blown out at a joint, right before the lines cross the creek. That pump had just started just started at 7:10am for morning peak flows. The pump was shut back down at 7:50 am. The lines were reconnected and bypass operations resumed without further incident. Staff estimates 27,000 gallons were spilled as a result of the hose failure.
The access road is nearly finished and stockpiling of materials has begun. The access road will allow heavy machinery to move to the pipe replacement site without getting stuck or damaging other infrastructure.
Battling additional storms and adverse weather, crews worked through the night Tuesday to set up bypass pumping operations around the break. Two temporary pipes are set up (a 10-inch and 6-inch in diameter) to capture wastewater from the end of the broken pipe and pump it across the land to the nearest manhole redirecting the waste around the break. Bypass pumping allows staff to replace the pipe without interrupting service to customers or discharging additional wastewater into the nearby stream.
Today, crews are building a proper access road from Oakdale Dr. so that heavy equipment and materials can maneuver near the break site without risk of damage. This is the first step in constructing the repair to the broken 30-inch wastewater pipe. Repairs could take days if not weeks to complete. Not only does the wastewater pipe need to be replaced but the stream banks will need to be restored and revegetated.
The Long Creek spill is the largest spill Charlotte Water has recorded at 15.4 million gallons. Charlotte Water suspects the break occurred during the very heavy storm the night of April 15-16.
The next two largest spills occurred October 25, 2017 on Mallard Creek (4.8 million gallons) and May 22, 2003 on McAlpine Creek (4.752 million gallons). All three of these spills were caused by heavy storms eroding creek banks causing pipe collapse.
Wastewater Spills in General
Most spills are significantly smaller in volume; in 2017, the average spill was a little over 650 gallons. Charlotte Water has worked for more than a decade to drive down the number of wastewater spills each year. In 2017, Charlotte Water collected and treated 99.9995% of the community’s wastewater but still experienced 189 wastewater spills. Nearly half of all spills are caused by grease and disposable wipes.
April 24, 2018 – Charlotte Water (CLTWater) crews responded to a broken wastewater pipe near Oakdale Road on April 23rd. Crews estimate approximately 15.4 million gallons reached Long Creek, part of the Catawba River Watershed. Drinking water supplies are not impacted by this spill.
At approximately 5:30 p.m. Monday, CLTWater received information from Mecklenburg County regarding a sewer odor and fish kill. CLTWater crews discovered a broken 30-inch wastewater pipe at the confluence of McIntyre Creek and Long Creek. It appears recent storms caused trees to fall and erosion of the stream bank up to 50 feet in some places. The wastewater pipe, undermined by the debris, heavy flows and erosion, fell into Long Creek under its own weight.
Ongoing storms and rushing water made containment of the spill challenging for crews. By 10:45 a.m. Tuesday the spill was stopped and crews began cleanup and pumping operations so that no further wastewater will spill.
CLTWater will begin the process of reinforcing the pumping operation with heavy duty bypass lines and pumps. Contractors are also onsite designing the repair. The timeline for repairs is not yet known.
North and South Carolina officials have been notified as well as downstream residents and businesses. Mecklenburg County officials have announced a no swim advisory for this area downstream of Long Creek until further notice.