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Environment & Science

Onondaga County to Begin Repairs on Broken Sewage Pipeline Near Onondaga Lake

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Crews are expected to being working Saturday to repair a leak in a pipeline that released some raw sewage into the southern part of Onondaga Lake last Friday. High flows from last week’s heavy rain put enough pressure on the 50-year-old pipe to cause the leak.

It’s called a force main, and it carries storm and sewage water from the Ley Creek Pump Station, along the Onondaga Lake shoreline near the railroad tracks, to the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant.  But Onondaga County commissioner of water environment protection Tom Rhoads says the age of the pipe, combined with the unusually high volume of water, caused the break in the crown, or top of the pipeline.

“We estimate that the leaks may have occurred for approximately thirty six hours which would have resulted in a conservative estimate of 10.8 million gallons of unsanitary waste water going to the lake," Rhoads said. 

Rhoads says they estimate the combination was roughly one part waste, four parts storm water.  But 80 percent of the flow was still reaching the treatment plant.

“We also like to be conservatively high in our estimates," Rhoads explained. "We don’t want to under report or have the public think that we’re not trying to be transparent with what could potentially have been the largest amount.”

Rhoads says there are no major health or environmental concerns, as long as people stay out of the water on the southern end of the lake.  He says it also doesn’t impact progress on the long-term cleanup of the lake.

“This is actually something that we take very seriously. We are fundamentally concerned about any release of sanitary sewer into the environment," Rhoads said. 

Under normal flow conditions, the pipe does not leak.  The county is installing a bypass system to allow sewage to continue to flow from homes and businesses while crews repair the main pipeline.  Officials say the time needed to fix the break depends on the extent and nature of the damage.