Snowmelt causes sewage to seep into Spokane River

Snowmelt causes sewage to seep into Spokane River

SPOKANE, Wash. - Melting snow has inadvertently led to raw sewage flowing into the Spokane River at eight different locations.

There's no word yet on how much untreated sewage has flowed into the river.

Water from storm drains and sewage is normally treated at Spokane's wastewater treatment plant, but during rain on snow events or big thunderstorms, sewer pipes can't handle the volume and some of it ends up in the river.

"Yeah, it's a little alarming when your first see and you're thinking whoa, somebody made a mistake, this isn't supposed to be here and then I found out it was supposed to be here it because that's just the way it's been done," Peaceful Valley resident Aaron Steiner said.

In all there are 20 spots along the river where sewage overflows can happen and signs warn people of the possible contamination.

For several years now the City of Spokane has been building underground vaults, like one on the South Hill currently under construction on Ray Street between 17th and 29th avenues. These vaults are designed to store surges or runoff until the weather conditions improve.

"This water that would otherwise discharge directly into the Spokane River is now going to be caught by this tank and filtered back to the wastewater treatment plant  to be treated instead of dumping raw sewage," Paul Cleary with Clearwater Construction said.

Raw sewage used to flow into the river at People's Park but it wasn't happening after the city installed these underground storage tanks. It's a welcome change for river users.

"It's way too beautiful to neglect and so it's really nice to know there have been people who have been working on the issue," Steiner said.

Later this spring the city will begin construction on its largest storage vault neat Underhill Park in the hopes of shutting down this periodic flow of sewage for good.