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50,000 gallons of sewage leaks into Port Washington Narrows
Approximately 50,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Port Washington Narrows beginning Sunday, May 6, after a sewer line failure near Marlow Avenue northwest of the Manette Bridge in East Bremerton.
Bremerton Utilities Operation Manager Wayne Hamilton said a private citizen called 911 at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning after noticing the leak. Dispatchers, in turn, contacted utility standby crews who worked on unplugging the failed line for about five hours.
"They thought they had unplugged it before the tide came in and covered the manholes," Hamilton said. "They came in Monday and reported it to me. I notified the health district and Department of Ecology as soon as they notified me. We then did some further investigation and found it was still plugged."
The Kitsap Public Health District on Monday issued a four-day no contact advisory for the waterway between Point Herron and Tracyton. During the advisory, which was expected to be lifted at some point Friday, May 11, the public is advised to avoid contact with the water and not harvest shellfish. Drinking water was not affected by the sewage leak, according to officials.
City utility crews, using a jet vac that pumps water at 2,000 pounds per-square-inch, were finally able to unplug the pipe at about noon on Tuesday, Hamilton said. The cause of the plug, though, was never determined and could have been grease, sludge or some unknown object.
Bremerton Public Works Director Katy Allen said that the pipe failure occurred in an unusual area.
"We have a hot list we use in Bremerton for sewers that are vulnerable to plugging because of pressure problems, grease or other reasons," she said. "This line is not on our hot list. It's not one that tends to plug up."
To get an idea for the magnitude of the leak, consider that it would take roughly five 15x30-foot above ground oval pools, with an average depth of 3 feet 8 inches, to hold 50,000 gallons of water.
When first asked, Hamilton, who has worked in Bremerton for 30 years, said he couldn't "remember the last time we had a spill in the Narrows." After some further research, he said that the last time a regular sewer line failed and sewage leaked into saltwater was April 19, 2005 when a lateral connection to a residence leaked 300 gallons into Oyster Bay. In addition, he said an Oyster Bay lift station leaked about 8,000 gallons into Oyster Bay June 5, 2008 and about 20 to 50 gallons Jan. 15, 2009.
"Those are the only ones on record reported to the health district and Ecology that went into the receiving waters," Hamilton added.
More recently, though, a sewer line failed at Kitsap Lake.
"We've struggled with this for a decade or better," Allen noted of the sewer line at the lake.
The most recent failure occurred April 18 when approximately 1,000 gallons of untreated human waste were released into Kitsap Lake, which has seen hordes of fishermen daily since then.
That sewage release was caused by a blocked sewer line that backed up into the basement of a private home located near the shoreline. The sewage flowed out of the house, across the yard, and into the lake, according to city officials.
"A hairball and a piece of 2x4 was stuck in the line for decade