Water treatment plant fire spills millions of gallons of sewage

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JORDAN RIVER, UTAH, UNITED STATES POLLUTION - Monday 27 August 2001 London, Aug 24 -- A press report, dated yesterday, states: An electrical fire at the state's largest water-treatment plant yesterday, caused millions of gallons of raw sewage to pour into the Jordan River. The fire and ensuing spill began just before 0700 hrs at the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility in South Salt Lake, prompting state officials to warn anglers, swimmers and boaters to avoid a long stretch of the Jordan River from 3100 South north to the Great Salt Lake. The river's water, which has no culinary use, now should not be used for irrigation either, they said. Environmental scientists and engineers were busy Wednesday collecting samples from the contaminated water for analysis. But the extent of damage to the river may not be determined until late today or Friday, and the river should be avoided until state officials announce otherwise, said Don Ostler, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality. State wildlife officials walked along portions of the Jordan River on Wednesday, looking for dead fish and other possible wildlife casualties. But they found none. "I don't know that any [fish] have died," said Ray Loken of the Division of Wildlife Resources. "It usually kills the fish pretty quick. Nobody's called in any dead fish. I didn't see anything." The spill can be traced to Tuesday night's (Aug 21) severe thunderstorm, which caused a power outage at the treatment plant. The massive plant -- which services most of the Salt Lake Valley and handles an estimated 50 million gallons of dirty water each day -- switched to its internal generators to power pumps that filter and cleanse the sewer water before it is piped into the river. But the generators were disabled by an electrical fire yesterday morning. The cause of the fire is still being investigated. The blaze, which began at about 0650 hrs, was suppressed within 20 minutes, South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote said. The plant sustained about $80,000 in damage, but workers were quickly evacuated and there were no injuries. Power was not restored to the pumps until about 1000 hrs, allowing the bacteria-rich waste to pour into the river virtually unfiltered for about three hours, Ostler said. Plant officials did their best to diminish the impact on the river by adding chlorine to the exiting raw sewage. Between 4 million and 5 million gallons of waste is estimated to have gushed into the river, he said. State wildlife and water officials believe the river will naturally cleanse itself as the sewage is diluted over time. The spill probably was not preventable, Ostler said. "This is very unusual; it's kind of a disaster," he said. "A lot of thought goes into these plants and the things that can happen to them. But this is above and beyond what anybody could plan for."

From Lloyd's Casualty List - http://www.lloydslist.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+FTContentServer?GXHC_gx_session_id_FutureTenseContentServer=690425c53e9dd60d&pagename=lloydslist/home&casu=0

-- Rich Marsh (marshr@airmail.net), August 27, 2001

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