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Tacoma: Clogged sewer pipe caused fecal bacteria advisory that closed Ruston Way waterfront

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on June 14, 2013 at 5:41 pm with No Comments »
June 14, 2013 5:50 pm

City of Tacoma utility workers have pinpointed a blocked sewage pipe on the hillside above Marine Park as the cause for  a “fecal bacteria” scare that shutdown part of the Ruston Way waterfront this week.

Closed waterfront“Something just got in the pipe and jammed it,” Environmental Services Director Mike Slevin said Friday. “It’s plumbing. Sometimes, things get clogged.”

On Tuesday, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued a “no contact” advisory for the Les Davis Pier, shutting down the waterfront along Ruston Way due to “high fecal bacteria counts in the water.”

“The public is warned not to make contact with the water until further notice,” the advisory said. “The Health Department will continue to collect water samples weekly and is investigating the pollution source.”

This week’s advisory marked the second closure of the waterfront since May 24, when the health department issued a similar advisory for the pier and nearby Cummings Park due to high fecal bacteria counts detected.  The department lifted that advisory and reopened the beach on May 31.

After the latest advisory, city environmental services officials started investigating, Slevin said.

Workers detected a blocked sewer main that serves “a bunch of homes on the hillside” above Marine Park on Ruston Way, Slevin said.

The clogged pipe led sewage to back up, bubble out of a manhole and run down the hill into a catchment basin. From there, the city’s  storm water system discharged it into Commencement Bay.  It took workers about 24 hours to unclog the pipe, in part using a pump system to bypass the sewage flow, Slevin said.

The health department will test the bay’s waters around the pier on Monday and then determine when it’s safe to reopen the waterfront based on test results, he added.

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