Untreated wastewater discharged into Harlands Creek; minimal impact expected

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PITTSBORO — Chatham County Public Utilities reported untreated wastewater discharge in Harlands Creek last week, but minimal damage was expected, officials say. 

The discharge was reported Thursday morning, June 23.

“County staff discovered the discharge at a manhole located along N.C. 64 Highway,” Chatham County Utilities said in a statement, “approximately 800 feet east of Renaissance Drive in Pittsboro.”

Utilities officials said the discharge was about 2,000 gallons, but the damage was lessened later that morning. Officials told the News + Record the pipe has since been completely repaired. 

“The cause of the discharge was due to a pipe failure inside the manhole that overflowed,” Utilities officials said in a statement. “Utilities crews immediately worked to repair the pipe and remediate the spill. The untreated wastewater from this pipe failure discharged into an unnamed tributary of Harlands Creek.”

Harlands Creek is a more than 10 mile-long tributary outside of Pittsboro which flows south to the Rocky River.

Chatham County previously had one other sanitary sewer overflow into a tributary of Harlands Creek, back on September 11, 2020. The discharge was about 3,000 gallons and was caused by pipe failure inside a manhole. 

“The potential impact of this sewage discharge of 2,160 gallons to Harlands Creek is very minimal considering the low volume,” Chatham County Utilities Director Blake Mills told the News + Record. “The discharge was not directly into Harlands Creek. It was through the top of the manhole, which entered a dry ditch that has to travel at least 1,200 feet to get to a tributary of Harlands Creek.”

Mills said the impact is measured using the potential number of gallons of sewage that would reach Harlands Creek as a result of the sanitary sewer overflow.  

He said when utilities services found the overflow, it was immediately blocked with dirt.

“[We] used a vacuum pump to remove the standing water, removed from the site dirt that was exposed to the sewage and spread lime on the impacted areas which will act to neutralize the sewage,” Mills said. 

The N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Quality Raleigh Regional Office was notified of the event within the 24-hour requirement. For more information, contact Mills at 919-542-8238.

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at brappaport@chathamnr.com or on Twitter @b_rappaport.

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