I recently read about a raw sewage leak caused by a power outage. This situation isn’t something that typically comes to mind when you think about an outage, which is why it caught my eye. The sewage treatment plant in question is located in Massachusetts, and the outage resulted in over 8 million gallons of raw sewage being released into the Merrimack River. Yuck!
How the Raw Sewage Made Its Way into the River
In a nutshell, the main pump located outside the treatment plant lost power, resulting in a backflow of sewer waste into the river. Unfortunately, while the treatment plant had backup power, the exterior pump did not. This begs the question of why the outside pump was not connected to the backup power source. The EPA is currently investigating.
Implication on Emergency Preparedness
This is always an interesting scenario for emergency planning, exercises and drills. A raw sewage spill can clearly complicate outage restoration and emergency management efforts. If sewage is released into potable drinking water supplies, utility workers and residents could become ill. This situation could also create downstream clogs that could, for example, prevent fire hydrants from working properly. And the list of possible ill effects could go on and on.
In the final analysis, a raw sewage leak could clearly be catastrophic, and therefore incorporating this scenario into emergency training materials and processes is highly recommended. And as always, there is no time like the present.