CFPUA crews stop million-gallon sewage spill


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Sewage spills are nothing new in Wilmington, but the latest accident off River Road is especially significant because of its size.

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority estimates there were between one and two million gallons of waste released into the county tidal creek.

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“Any spill is more than we want to see, so whether it’s a thousand gallons or a million gallons, that’s too much,” CFPUA Chief Operating Officer Jim Flechtner said.

Sewage seeped into the Cape Fear River from a ruptured pipe near the Bernards Creek Bridge yesterday. CFPUA crews worked through the night trying to locate the source, slowing traffic on river road. CFPUA officials say they have stopped the flow of waste into the creek and are working on a permanent fix to the problem.

“We don’t know exactly what caused the break, but we don’t think it was related to any construction activities,” Flechtner said. “The construction work was far away from there, and interestingly that construction work was a project to parallel the very line that broke.”

This latest sewage spill is not only a concern for those at the CFPUA, but it’s also raising red flags among area environmental groups and also local residents.

“It is a reoccurring problem, and it’s endangering our wildlife, it’s endangering our own lives, our children,” said Beth Hunt, who lives nearby. “We are being exposed to pollutants and things we shouldn’t be exposed to.”

Cape Fear River Watch shares the concerns of people who live close to the spill. They advise anyone who lives near Bernards Creek or fishes nearby not to eat anything they catch and not to kayak in the water.

“I think it’s likely to happen again,” Cape Fear River Watch Executive Director Kemp Burdette said. “I think it’s likely to be one of those things that, obviously this wasn’t planned, nobody knew this was going to happen, I don’t think anybody had any idea that pipe was corroded, and that’s the problem.”

Burdette says because of the tides, the fecal matter has probably already made its way to the water near downtown. It’s something that both his environmental group and the CFPUA will be monitoring in the future.

Cape Fear River Watch says the problem is likely due to how old many pipes in the CFPUA system are. The utility authority is looking to restore much of the old piping, but it is a fix that will take time and money.