DEQ: City leaders did not notify them immediately of sewage spill

DEQ: City leaders did not notify them immediately of sewage spill

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Fishing areas along Bickham Bayou remain closed as Shreveport city leaders continue to monitor bacteria levels after a sewage line ruptured.  
In the aftermath of the line break, the DEQ is now investigating whether city leaders failed to notify them of the situation, which is required when an emergency happens.

"There may be some paperwork lag this time, I don't know if they failed to notify us on time or not," said Department of Environmental Quality Press Secretary Greg Langley.

The DEQ is investigating the situation. The results will be sent to their "Enforcement Division" to decide repercussions, if any.

Through an email, Water and Sewerage Director Barbara Featherston tells us they only notify the DEQ within 24-hours in particularly severe situations, which they don't believe was the case here because they were able to contain the sewage quickly.

"We've discussed the proper reporting approach for sewer overflows with DEQ in the past, and we had been operating consistent with our understanding of what was needed. We plan to discuss this issue further with DEQ, to ensure we are all on the same page," said Featherston.

Shreveport resident Robert Williams is surprised to see his favorite fishing spot shutdown.

"There are some new lures I wanted to try out to see if the fish would bite them," said Williams.

The popular fishing area near Ford Park was closed by city leaders out of caution after a sewage line broke a couple miles away on Bickham Bayou Saturday.

"There was a weak spot in the line there, that had broken before and it ruptured again," said Langley.

The city has since plugged each side of the sewage pipe to stop the leak and will install a new line.

Featherston says they will continue monitoring the water daily. In the meantime, Williams has to find somewhere else to fish. "I'll just go to Caddo Lake or Wallace Lake, somewhere, where it is alright to fish," said Williams.

Featherston says once they are comfortable with the bayou test results, they will open up the fishing areas. They hope to open them back up by Christmas.

The new sewer line is expected to be installed by January.

Read Featherston's full statement here:

"As called for by the terms of our DEQ permit, we normally report all sewer leaks and overflows to DEQ in tabular form after the month in which they occurred. Only in particularly severe situations, such as ongoing high volume force main breaks which can't be readily stopped, have we historically done 24 hour reporting. Such was not the case here--in this case, the sewer run out was from a gravity main and was contained and ended very quickly after discovery. In addition to containing the sewer, staff placed an air compressor on-site to put air into the bayou to restore oxygen levels. Although initial oxygen levels in the bayou were low, resulting in a small fish kill, our monitoring over the weekend was inconclusive as to the magnitude of the spill--in fact, bacteria counts were extremely low in the bayou just downstream of the site, suggesting a minimal impact. However, we continued to monitor the area to assess impact, and based on results obtained earlier this week we determined that it would be prudent to notify DEQ. By then, DEQ had already become aware of the situation. 
 
We've discussed the proper reporting approach for sewer overflows with DEQ in the past, and we had been operating consistent with our understanding of what was needed. We plan to discuss this issue further with DEQ, to ensure we are all on the same page. 
 
I must emphasize that we address sewer issues as quickly as possible, especially those that may involve our water supply. At no time was there any danger to our water supply. The location of the spill in the Bayou was located over 3,500 feet from the lake itself and another 3+ miles to the Amiss Water Treatment Plant intake structure.

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