Sewage spill investigated for gross negligence

December 23, 2010 12:31:33 AM PST
Authorities either say it is gross negligence or an act of environmental terrorism. Marin County is investigating two huge sewage spills and whether they are related.

Crews are working around the clock to fix a sewage main that ruptured on Wednesday. Now, the Ross Valley Sewage District is trying to figure out if this is related to a very suspicious sewage overflow problem not far up the road.

"It is. It is difficult to get around. It is affecting the traffic for sure, especially in the mornings," says Nicole Mott from Kentfield.

Crews are laying down miles of pipe through Kentfield to bypass a backed up sewage line.

"Well it's a two-lane road, so sure, it could definitely back up traffic," says Christine Price from Larkspur.

The work is going on around the clock. It was necessary after a brand new line backed up during the storms over the weekend. More than 840,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled out into the streets and into the Corde Madera Creek.

Crews isolated the problem to a manhole at Kent Middle School and when they opened it, they found the equivalent of three pickup truck loads of construction debris dumped in the sewer.

"This is a manhole at Kent Middle School," says Brett Richards, the Ross Valley Sewage District general manager.

They pulled out large chunks of asphalt, there were wads of electrical wiring, construction hard hats, tools, and pieces of the school's track surface dug up during the $4 million project to prevent sewage overflow during storms.

"Which means that the event Friday and Saturday was either extremely negligent or possibly environmental terrorism," says Richards.

The Ross Valley Sewage District says it contacted the FBI and this could become a criminal case.

When asked of the items looked like construction debris from the sewage project, Richards says, "In all likelihood it probably is."

The sewage district says it will contact the contractor, JMB Construction, and ask how the debris got into a brand new sewage line. ABC7 tried to call JMB on Wednesday night, but got no response.

"The only real alternative is that somebody went and lifted a manhole lid and put the stuff into the system," says Richards.

The sewage district says it contacted all regulatory agencies within two hours of the spill. Now it looks the initial investigation begins and the questioning will be directed toward the construction contractor.


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