OLYMPIA, Wash. - A million and a half gallons of raw sewage has been flowing into a part of Puget Sound unnoticed for two months after workers for the city of Olympia failed to close a pipe after maintenance.
The city said that on Tuesday, public works crews discovered that wastewater had been flowing into Moxlie Creek.
The creek runs under downtown Olympia in a large pipe and discharges into Budd Inlet at the head of East Bay.
Upon investigation of the cause, Public Works officials discovered that the discharge began in mid- September after a capped pipe that had been opened for cleaning and maintenance was not re-capped.
The pipe where the sewage was flowing out is right next to neighborhoods and parks.
Neighbors who live along the East Bay waterway said they had no idea that 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage had been flowing there undetected for months.
While it was hard to see solid evidence of the sewage flow, neighbor Elaine Hayashai-Petersen she noticed a foul smell and the water looking mucky while she was on her daily walks.
“It’s like there’s a lot of stuff in there. Paper, plastic stuff – it’s dirty,” said Hayashai-Petersen.
The raw sewage would still be flowing into the bay if a city worker hadn't noticed something foul floating in a storm pipe under a manhole cover blocks away.
Workers followed the flow and discovered an underground pipe never re-capped after maintenance.
Crews immediately reported the problem and stopped the discharge.
The Thurston County Health Department said it doesn’t believe people are in danger unless they have physical contact with the water.
Neighbors said they want to know more.
“They need to test it and they need to monitor it for a period of time until they get it back to where it needs to be,” said neighbor Mike Edwards.
Thurston County health officials said the sewage should decompose with the flow of stormwater.
“While the leak is unfortunate, the city has stopped the leak and is taking steps to prevent spills like this in the future. I do not believe there is any additional risk to the public. Lower Budd Inlet is already closed to direct recreational uses and shellfish harvesting,” said county health officer Dr. Diana Yu.
Still, neighbors grimaced at the thought of their flushed waste flowing into the inlet.
“That’s nasty,” said Hayashai-Petersen.