Wastewater from a broken pipe that flooded the city’s sewage treatment plant waist deep has been pumped out, and discharges are not polluting Bellingham Bay, a city official said Sunday morning.
But the plant at Post Point west of Fairhaven at 200 McKenzie Ave. remains in emergency operations after a 30-inch pipe broke and fell from the ceiling at 1 a.m. Saturday, flooding underground sections of the plant and forcing a shutdown of the secondary treatment process, said Eric Johnston, assistant director for public works operations.
“There was no raw sewage discharged to the bay,” Johnston said. “We are not seeing any threat or any potential risk to people or shellfish. We are well below thresholds.”
Lab analysis showed extremely low levels of fecal coliform in the plant’s offshore discharge, Johnston said.
No water-use restrictions have been issued, and temporary repairs should be made within a week without service interruptions, Johnston said. No one was injured when the pipe fell, he added.
Meanwhile, only basic treatment is being provided at the plant. Once floodwaters were removed, crews restarted components related to solid waste incineration, odor control and dechlorination systems, Johnston said.
Special trucks assisted workers using on-site pumps Saturday to remove water up to 3 1/2 feet deep from the underground gallery that contains pumps, motors and controls for the wastewater treatment process, Johnston said. Workers used protective equipment such as waders and safety glasses, but did not require hazardous materials suits, he said.
After the water was pumped out, the entire area was cleaned, Johnston said. He said the pipe carried wastewater as part of the secondary treatment process.
Cost of the damaged pipe, cleanup and repair was unknown Sunday, Johnston said.
Sewage at Post Point is treated in two stages. Solids and sediment are removed through a settling process, then bacteria are introduced to further reduce contaminants in the water, Johnston said. Treated effluent is carried several hundred feet offshore into Bellingham Bay.
Only the primary-level treatment process was used until 1993, according to the city’s website.
Johnston said city officials notified other concerned agencies, including the state departments of Ecology and Health as well as the Whatcom County Health Department and Lummi Nation.