An estimated 2,100 gallons of raw sewage was spilled into the Willamette River near Bowman Park on Thursday morning, city officials said.
The overflow occurred at about 8 a.m. when city of Albany crews were performing routine sewer system maintenance and discovered a previously abandoned sewer line that was leaking, according to a news release from the city.
Crews took immediate action to investigate and stopped the leak by permanently plugging the line, which stopped the spill at 2 p.m., according to the news release.
“This particular line we’ve known about. It’s just old,” said Kristin Preston, wastewater superintendent for the city of Albany, in an interview on Thursday afternoon.
April floods might have also played a factor, she said.
“That area was inundated by the river. I am surmising that the flooding could have caused some damage. We did have some other damage from that flooding to our sewage system,” Preston added.
During the April floods, the city of Albany’s sewage system was inundated with river water and discharged 5.01 million gallons of raw sewage into the Willamette.
Signs have been posted at Bowman Park and downstream at Simpson Park warning the public of the potential hazards of coming into contact with the water.
High levels of bacteria that are typically associated with overflows should diminish in the next few days.
The city of Albany will continue to monitor water quality at these locations.
The public should avoid contact with the Willamette River at this location and immediately downstream until warning signs are removed.
“E coli would be the main issue,” Preston said. “Usually that is intestinal problems. ... The amount that was spilled is relatively small compared to the river, so there is lots of dilution. The chances of someone getting sick are pretty minimal.”
Still, residents should stay away, she cautioned.
The timing of the sewage discharge was unfortunate, as the Willamette River in the mid-valley had more activity than usual on Thursday.
About 150 participants in Paddle Oregon had camped at Bryant Park in Albany and were scheduled to kayak, canoe and paddleboard north toward Salem, past Bowman Park, on Thursday morning.
People who see an overflowing manhole or wish to report a spill should contact the Public Works Department operations staff at 541-917-7600.