Sewage, runoff spill into Strait, harbor

PORT ANGELES — Overflows driven by constant rainfall have led to an estimated 451,800 gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater spilling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Port Angeles Harbor, the Clallam County Environmental Health director said.

Jennifer Carcelon said in a press release issued Friday that sewage spills were reported at N and Fourth streets and at the pump station on Marine Drive, and a combined sewage overflow was reported from the wastewater treatment plant’s outfall.

“Release of untreated sewage and stormwater to Port Angeles Harbor may occur during intense rain events when combined sewer and stormwater flows exceed sewer system capacities,” she said in the release, which warned the public to avoid marine water contact in Port Angeles Harbor during and following heavy rain events.

All three overflows happened Thursday night, said Thomas Hunter, Port Angeles Public Works director.

“It rained really heavily from Wednesday night through Thursday night and the system just got inundated,” he said Saturday.

Accumulated rainfall since the first of the year is measured at 8.71 inches at the Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.

The county reported that a sewage overflow of an estimated 16,800 gallons spilled from a manhole at N and Fourth streets into the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Ediz Hook and the Elwha River.

Another spill into the Strait was from the Port Angeles Wastewater Treatment Plant CSO outfall. The discharge was estimated at 375,000 gallons, Carcelon said.

A sewage overflow of some 60,000 gallons spilled into the Port Angeles Harbor from the Port Angeles Wastewater Treatment Plant Pump Station in the 800 block of Marine Drive, she said in the press release.

“Almost all the time the plant is able to handle everything, but in extreme weather a little is let out so we can treat the rest of it instead of having a catastrophic failure,” Hunter said.

No other overflows have occurred since then, Hunter said, although flows were still high on Saturday.

“It takes some time for all that rain to go through the system,” he said.

The National Weather Service has forecast mostly dry weather for at least the next few days.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses, the county said. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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