Tag Archives: spill

A Foul Odor Outside May or May Not Be Wastewater

Have you ever ventured outside and something quite astonishing assaulted your nose? It may be easy to pin the blame on a wastewater treatment plant that could be nearby. However, foul odors commonly emanate from a variety of sources in our community:

  • Landfills
  • Industries (i.e. paper or chemical plants)
  • Natural gas pipeline work
  • A wastewater spill
  • Wastewater plants
  • Even private plumbing

Let’s start inside the home…

Private plumbing systems are designed to prevent wastewater gases from entering residences. All active sewer lines contain gases, and a malfunctioning plumbing system could allow gases or odors to enter the home.

Is the odor inside?

Is the odor only coming from…:

A drain that hasn’t been used recently?

We recommend for you to pour a gallon of water down the drain and see if the odor persists.

Multiple drains that are used frequently?

It may be a blockage or clog in your plumbing. Try a liquid dissolvent, please follow directions and see if this clears the clog and dissipates the odor.

A kitchen sink?

Clean the disposal (following the owner’s manual).

What you put down the drain (grease, oils, wipes) can cause odors clogging your plumbing. If the odor does not go away and is only inside your house, consider having a licensed plumber check your plumbing and vent system.

illustration of sink showing that water sits in the trap keeping gases and odors from coming out of the drain. Houses have a vent to the room so that any odor will escape outside.

Odor Outside Home?

Every home has a wastewater vent (on the roof) that could be the source of an odor immediately outside your home (patio, deck, etc.). The odor could be caused by a clog or blockage in your plumbing. Check with neighbors to see if they are also experiencing the odor. If it is only noticed just outside your building, contact a plumber.

Another place to check is in your front yard. Most homes also have a white plastic lid called a cleanout, and that if not closed properly it may cause odor in the yard.

If you live on waterfront property or the road is higher than your house, you may have a low-pressure sanitary sewer system to pump your wastewater up to the gravity fed sewer system. It is possible that this system may be causing an odor in the pump basin if something is malfunctioning.

What Can Cause A Wastewater Type Odor?

Sewage odor may be a sign of a nearby wastewater overflow that needs immediate attention.

​If you see or suspect a wastewater overflow or spill, call 311 or 704-336-7600 – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If calling after hours, please say or select ‘wastewater emergency’ to speak to our dispatchers.

If you live beside a wastewater treatment plant, there may be some occasions when a smell is noticeable outside the property. Wastewater odor can be noticeable during warm temperatures, buildup of debris in pipes, or low flow during some nights and weekends.

CLTWater Takes Odor Seriously

For decades, wastewater treatment plants that were once neighbors to farms and forests are now neighbors to residential neighborhoods and businesses. In fact, there’s a wastewater treatment plant in the Little Sugar Creek / South Park area! As people moved closer to our plants, CLTWater invested millions on odor reduction. We aren’t baking bread, but we try hard to make the treatment of our community’s wastewater less noticeable.

Air scrubbers, carbon filters, bio-filters, help CLTWater reduce odors that can occur during the wastewater treatment process. We are committed to safely treating wastewater and reducing odors. We appreciate your input to help us identify potential odors.

How Do I Report an Odor or Sewer Spill?

If you see or suspect a wastewater overflow, call 311 – 24 hours a day, seven days a week (say or select wastewater emergency).

  • Try to locate the source.
  • If it is coming from a manhole or a creek, call 311 or 704-336-7600 and provide the closest address.
  • A repair crew will respond quickly, investigate the cause and repair any publicly owned pipes, if needed.


Downed Tree Causes Large Wastewater Spill on Long Creek

March 15, 2022 – Charlotte Water crews responded to a broken 30-inch wastewater pipe. A fallen tree eroded the creek bank causing the 30-inch wastewater pipe to collapse. An estimated 484,075 gallons reached Long Creek. Crews quickly set up a barrier to contain the spill and temporary above-ground pipes to pump the community’s wastewater around the broken pipe.

This spill does not affect drinking water.

How You Can Help

This spill was caused by weather and creek bank erosion but most spills are caused by blockages. You can help reduce blockages and spills.

  • Toss in the trash: paper towels, wipes, hair, cotton swabs, feminine products, dental floss, coffee grounds, and excess food.
  • Toss in the toilet: only toilet paper.
  • Kitchen sink: soap suds, small amounts of foods from plate, and liquids (no fats, oils, or grease).
  • Take to a full-service recycling center: used and expired oils and grease.

Suspect A Sewage Spill? Call 311 or 704-336-7600.

Charlotte Water rapid response crews operate 24 hours-a-day.

Charlotte Water crews maintain more than 4,475 miles of wastewater pipe. Charges from monthly water bills fund preventative maintenance, emergency response, and the safe daily delivery of more than 91 million gallons of wastewater to treatment plants, where wastewater is treated to high water quality standards.

Construction Update: Stewart Creek Greenway Closure – Update #7

Charlotte Water and Mecklenburg County have reopened the Stewart Creek Greenway near Lela Avenue. The greenway was closed for several months after a heavy rain washed away part of the creek bank causing a wastewater pipe to fall into the creek.

We appreciate your patience during this emergency wastewater pipe replacement project, and we hope you enjoy using the newly restored greenway!

Learn more about the repair by reading our blog updates:

Update #1
Update #2
Update #3
Update #4
Update #5
Update #6

How Recent Heavy Rains Caused This Wastewater Spill

On Friday, February 7, 2020, Charlotte Water crews responded to a broken wastewater pipe off of the Stewart Creek Greenway near 1721 Lela Avenue. Elevated rain levels and flooding from the inclement weather the day before caused part of the creek bank of Stewart Creek to wash away, undermining the wastewater pipe. An estimated 2,163,000 gallons reached Stewart Creek in the Catawba River Watershed.

Heavy rains on February 6, 2020 washed away the stream bank beside Stewart Creek Greenway, causing the wastewater pipe to fall into the creek, and separate at the joints.

Crews set up temporary pipes and multiple pumps to divert the community’s wastewater around the broken pipe to a manhole downstream. This incident did not impact our drinking water quality and no service interruptions occurred. Residents and their pets were encouraged to avoid contact with Stewart Creek.

Greenway Closed

For the safety of the public, Mecklenburg County crews closed Stewart Creek Greenway during repairs.

Greenway closure map updated on February 25, 2020

Next Steps

With additional rain in the forecast, crews will continuously monitor this area to reduce the risk of additional overflows. Heavy equipment will be delivered to the area near the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Lela Avenue.

Crews are also working upstream near Tuckaseegee Road to enhance a stream bank that eroded and could potentially damage wastewater pipe.

Charlotte Water flew a drone over the spill location to analyze the pipe damage and stream bank erosion.

Questions and Answers:

How does CLTWater handle heavy rains and prevent spills?

The underground sanitary sewer pipe network is not designed to handle rain, yet the runoff and flooding from large rains inevitably infiltrate the wastewater pipe network. Overflow basins at the five largest wastewater treatment plants capture and later treat more than 100 million gallons of rainwater mixed with wastewater. Throughout the storm, all plants operated well and no spills occurred at any Charlotte Water plant. These equalization basins (EQ basin) help prevent wastewater from overflowing out of manholes in our community.

CLTWater has also added several large wastewater pipes to help reduce the impact of heavy rains. Crews work to prevent rainwater from getting into the sanitary sewer system and are out investigating our system soon after a storm ends.

What is the largest wastewater spill in CLTWater history?

The three largest spills were all caused by heavy storms eroding creek banks causing pipe collapse.

  1. April 15, 2018, into Long Creek spill (15.4 million gallons).
  2. October 25, 2017, into Mallard Creek (4.8 million gallons).
  3. May 22, 2003, into McAlpine Creek (4.752 million gallons).

Charlotte Water continues to drive down the number of wastewater spills each year. In 2019, Charlotte Water collected and treated 99.99% of the community’s wastewater.

Have a question you’d like to ask? Feel free to contact us: ccoley@charlottenc.gov