SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton Roads Sanitation District confirms a sewage spill late Thursday night wasn’t contained until Friday at 3 p.m., spilling 2.5 million gallons of raw sewage.
It’s one of the largest spills in recent history in the area.
Saunders Drive in Suffolk is a short road that leads to the Suffolk Pump Station on Shingle Creek. Several workers down by the pump station.
All you have to do is follow the sewage smell that, at times, was an eight on a scale of 10.
10 On Your Side discovered there are several issues with the pump station, which dumped 2.5 million gallons of sewage into Shingle Creek. That pollution has found its way to the oyster grounds on the Nansemond River.
The water was nasty, black and had smell to go along with it.
HRSD spokesperson Leila Rice blames the pumps for the sewage dump.
“The high pressure caused the pumps to lock out, causing the sewage to spill into shingle creek,” Rice said.
The workers said they are pumping water out of the containment area to fix a siphon pump. HRSD claims work was already underway on the pump before it malfunctioned last Thursday.
“As our crews got the bypass pumps, they identified something that was still going on somewhere, they weren’t able to contain it completely, and then they discovered a hole near the temporary repair from a few weeks back.”
At least three events took place that involved this massive sewage dump. Critics say the issues give legitimacy to a long-standing lawsuit that alleges, in part, that HRSD and the City of Suffolk can’t handle customer demand, and have violated environmental laws. Attorney Joe Waldo represents several watermen in that case.
“Suffolk has refused to manage its growth. It has overburdened the system. The system is not designed for the capacity that it is having to endure.”
The sewage spill has greatly impacted oysterman Robert Johnson, who says 90 percent of his oyster grounds are now closed down by the Virginia Department of Health.
“I have a loss of income. I have five people who work with us, and we are responsible for their salaries. For them and their families. I have that [responsibility].”
We asked Rice about HRSD’s responsibility for sewage spills over the years, and now it’s happened again.
“I am unable to speak on that due to the current litigation that is underway. I apologize, but I am not allowed to speak on that,” Rice said.
HRSD and the City of Suffolk know the Suffolk Pump Station is an issue, and hoping future improvements mean no more sewage dumps.
“The Suffolk pump station is in our capital improvements project for replacement… Those replacements are in design, and work is to begin in 2021.”