Briar Chapel sewage spill: Any danger?

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Less than a month ago, around 2,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled out of a broken pipe in Briar Chapel managed by Old North State Water Company.

Though the untreated water flowed into nearby Pokeberry Creek, there have been no reports of danger to the public. 

Our Chatham first caught wind of the story from our friends at the Chatham County Line, who Tweeted about it. Then I reached out to Envirolink, a company that manages Old North State Water Company’s assets, about the issue.  

Carr Mclamb, general counsel and chief operating officer of Envirolink, says the company helps governments and private industry “in operating their water and sewer utilities.”

“To give you some context,” Mclamb said, “This incident … was the 1,062nd such incident [in the state of North Carolina] that has occurred as of June 11th when we reported our incident. So, they’re very common.”

Sarah Young, a spokesperson for North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, told me that the latest sewage spill on June 11th follows two other recent spills in Briar Chapel: 1,000-gallon sanitary sewer overflows occurred April 18th and June 5th. 

According to state law, Old North State Water Company was required to distribute a press release “in the event of a discharge of 1,000 gallons or more of untreated wastewater to the surface waters of the state.” 

A press release matching the one Envirolink provided Our Chatham can be viewed on a page of the Greensboro News & Record. 

Carr said that the failure was uncontrollable. 

“It’s a mechanical operation,” he said. “Things are going to fail. That’s why you’ve had 1,062 of these incidents throughout the year so far.”

According to a report he had seen, “the spill was contained, and it was addressed within two hours.”

I asked Mclamb a question that I’m sure Chatham residents are wondering: are any Briar Chapel residents in danger because of the spill?

“The state of North Carolina sets standards for these types of incidents,” he said. “And we just comply with the standards. That’s what we were doing by issuing the press release and anything else that flows from it.”

According to that release, “Envirolink’s staff found no evidence that the spill impacted surface water in the Cape Fear River Basin.”

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources is looking into the matter, according to the legal notice on the Greensboro News & Record’s site. 

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