Untreated sewage spills into Boise River

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Untreated sewage spills into Boise River Contamination affects water west of Meridian Road

By Roya Camp The Idaho Statesman

Rafters and swimmers were advised to avoid a stretch of the Boise River near Meridian Road on Thursday after a sewage spill.

A pipeline collapsed about 2:15 p.m. Thursday near West Boise, spilling untreated sewage into the Warm Springs Slough, and possibly making its way to the Boise River.

Boise Public Works Department Director Bill Ancell said Sommer Construction Inc. was replacing the 30-inch diameter concrete line, which carries sewage to the West Boise Wastewater Treatment Plant at 11818 Joplin Road in unincorporated Ada County. It wasn't known Thursday whether the work caused the collapse, Ancell said. The pipe segment was about 25 years old.

The treatment plant and slough, also known as Kid's Creek, are just south of the southern channel of the Boise River near Eagle Island. The slough flows about 4 miles before it meets the river between Meridian and Linder roads.

The treatment plant serves Boise, sewer districts in the city, Garden City and Eagle.

The spill continued at a rate of about 150 gallons per minute for about two hours. By 4:15 p.m., the flow had been reduced to about 25 gallons per minute. Large pumps were used to divert the sewage to a nearby line running to the plant.

"We haven't gotten it contained yet," Ancell said Thursday afternoon. "We've got it reduced considerably."

The spill was flowing west, and Ancell said it was likely that the sewage had reached the end of the slough and was making its way into the river.

"At this point, the best we can do is let it flow and stop it at its source," he said.

People are advised to avoid slough water, and Ancell cautioned those who use the river west of Meridian Road, near the slough's end, to avoid water activities until health officials can determine the extent of the contamination and assess any possible health risks. Water testing was expected to start Thursday, and preliminary test results might be available today. The city will work with the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Central District Health Department to test and monitor the water, Ancell said.

"At least until we get a better understanding, it would be safer for people not to be tubing west of Meridian Road," he said.

The Boise River in that area also is used by swimmers and people who fish from the banks, said John Edmiston, a kayaker, rafter and manager of Idaho River Sports in Boise.

"There are people that swim in it, mostly at the various bridges," he said. "It's not the cleanest chunk of river to start with.

"I never like to hear the water being polluted, but I don't think you're going to see a lot of people getting sick," Edmiston said.

The pipe will be replaced within the next couple of days


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 08, 2000

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