"Sewer backs up into wetlands, Sinclair Inlet"
June 12, 2008 · Updated 1:16 PM
"An estimated 190,000 gallons of sewer water seeped from two Port Orchard city manholes last week and flowed into a secluded, overgrown wetland just south of a fire station on Tremont Street. Officials say the spill also wended its way into Sinclair Inlet just east of Tweten's Lighthouse restaurant on Bay Street.City engineer Larry Curles said there isn't any immediate health risk to the public. But officials issued warnings anyway, asking people to steer clear of the wetland as well as some beaches in dowtown Port Orchard until further notice.Right now, if you didn't know the spill happened, you wouldn't be able to tell because you can't see or smell anything, said Keith Grellner, a sewage and water-quality program manager for Bremerton-Kitsap Health District. But he also noted the health risks. We advise people to stay out of the (spill) area, he said.Grellner said rain last Sunday diffused the waste somewhat. Officials can't do much more, he added. Nature must takes its own course, he said, although nature isn't meant to tend to such a mess.Health district and city officials posted warnings around the wetland area near points that citizens could access. Grellner said anyone could stand along the public pier off Bay Street in Port Orchard, but playing along the beachfront and swimming is ill-advised until later this week, he said.Officials reminded that an earlier closure of Sinclair Inlet to shell fishing is still in effect.Curles said city Public Works Department crews cleared away a 10-inch water main clogged with congealed cooking grease Saturday morning. The grease caused wastewater to back up and spew out from at least two city manholes. A high-pressure water hose broke up the mess and cleared the pipes, Curles said. The city did well under the circumstances, said Grellner.At about 4 p.m. last Friday, the Public Works department received a phone call about a sewer blockage near Arbor Terrace Apartments in the 1800 block of Sidney Avenue. A crew found that an undetermined amount of wastewater spewed from the manholes, flooding the headwaters of a creek located south of South Kitsap Fire District's Fire Station 8 on Tremont Street and east of Arbor Terrace on Poplar Street. Grellner said the creek carried the waste into a wetland area surrounded by Pottery and Sidney avenues, Lippert Street and Tremont. The spill is expected to reach Sinclair Inlet via an unnamed creek beneath a public dock located east of Tweten's Lighthouse. Officials are monitoring the wetland and portions of the inlet through spot samples.Four hours after learning of the wastewater overflow, officials discovered approximately where the sewer pipe was blocked. But they delayed unblocking it because night had fallen and the high-pressure hose used to break up the mess is a noisy piece of equipment, Curles said. Also, the hose was to be placed through a manhole located downstream from the problem. Covered with vegetation, the manhole wasn't uncovered until daylight Saturday.Curles, who reported the spill early Saturday to health district and state Department of Ecology officials, said the actual amount is unknown. But based on the number of dwellings located upstream-780-and the presumed amount of time the leaking occurred, Curles guessed 190,000 gallons. On April 20, a musty, sewage-like odor was detected along Port Orchard Boulevard near Tremont Street. But the next day--last Friday--the odor had disappeared. Based on that, Curles said, the leak started Thursday afternoon. Curles said the city isn't pointing any fingers at perceived perpetrators, because many residents have probably dumped cooking grease down kitchen sink drains. Any amount of hot grease poured down a drain congeals as it hits sewage and wastewater pipes below. As it hardens, the grease looks like cooled wax, Curles said. Over time, chunks of grease can clog pipes where they connect. Curles said congealed grease acts like a cork; one-third of all wastewater runs past, while the rest backs up. That's what happened in this case, Curles said. Too many people pour cooking grease down their drains without realizing the consequences, he noted.No one is doing it on purpose, Curles said. The city, he said, plans to advise area residents on the hazards of dumping cooking grease down drains. As a solution, left-over grease could be placed in a glass jar and then thrown into the garbage, he said."