Water and sewer customers in Montpelier will be receiving some advice with their April bill on what is and is not acceptable to flush down the toilet. This comes after a wad of industrial cleaning rags was found to be the cause of a backup in the system on March 11. The result was an estimated 360,000 gallons of effluent discharged into the Winooski River. In his weekly report on Friday, City Manager William Fraser wrote:
The cause of the overflow was a plug in the collection system in front of the Department of Motor Vehicles where rags had restricted the flow, causing the sewer line to back up and overflow out the combined sewer overflow at Taylor Street. We estimate that 360,000 gallons were discharged, as the reporting resident noticed the overflow on Sunday just before noon and assumed that the cause was an increased runoff, causing the combined sewer overflow event. Although the number is very great, the discharge rate was approximately 250-300 gallons per minute (measured by the same resident), which discharged into the Winooski River with a discharge rate of 7,000 gallons per second.
In a March 11 email to State Watershed Management Division Environmental Analyst Liz Dickson, Montpelier Director of Public Works Todd Law estimated the blockage caused about 24 hours of overflow before it was discovered and removed. Law also reported he was not certain about the source of the rags. However in the report City Manager Fraser issued last week he stated the city has sent letters to parties believed to be the "primary contributors" of the industrial rags.
Fraser also noted in last week's report that approximately 1,000 gallons of untreated sewage was discharged into the river as the result of a catastrophic pipe failure on River Street on March 29. City crew members worked into the night to fix that problem:
Our crew’s quick thinking minimized the impact to the environment, as they plugged the catch basin in which the sewage was discharging and used it as a pump station until the temporary line was installed. The crew including our project engineer and engineering technician were on site until 2 a.m. completing the temporary line.
Work on that section of the system is ongoing. According to the report, the second phase of the project will go out to bid in a few weeks.