Pipe repair expected later this week to stop treated sewage leak at Port Townsend’s North Beach

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — City officials expect to repair a broken pipe at North Beach that is leaking treated sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca later this week.

“The water is being let out at the water line when it should go out around 900 feet,” said John Merchant, Port Townsend’s operations manager for storm water and sewer.

“It’s pretty clean water,” he added. “It’s already been processed.”

Despite the lack of a direct health hazard, Jefferson County Public Health issued a “no contact” health advisory for the area, which requests that the public avoid any direct contact with the water at North Beach, including surfing, swimming, boating fishing and the harvesting of shellfish and seaweed.

The area is not quarantined. As of Tuesday, one sign had been posted on the beach’s message board. Merchant said more signs would be posted.

He estimated that as much as 50 gallons a minute could be spilling into the Strait, depending on tidal conditions.

The tide is a factor in the repair’s timing, as the city can excavate and repair the pipe, which Merchant said is probably broken in two places, only during very low tides.

Aside from the low tides, the city must acquire permits from the state Fish and Wildlife Department and from its own building office, both of which Merchant feels he will be able to secure before the optimum tide conditions occur later this week.

Merchant did not know how long the pipe had been broken, but said that he has been regularly checking conditions at the beach and had not detect any leaks.

This breach was detected Monday by a private citizen who reported it to the city.

Merchant said that it resembles other leaks that took place in 2006 and 2010.

No additional equipment is needed to fix the leak.

Once the permits are acquired and the tide is right, the repair will be conducted using a city-owned backhoe.

Jefferson County Public Health has taken water samples that were sent to a private lab for analysis.

Results could be available as soon as today, said Michael Dawson, the county’s water quality lead.

The treated sewage contains a low level of bacteria, but some health risk remains until the repairs are completed, according to a county press release.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 25. 2014 7:02PM
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