About 180,000 gallons of sewage spilled into Kings Branch in south Charlotte on Friday – prompting Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins to urge the public to avoid a popular stretch of the river downstream this weekend.
Kings Branch is a tributary to Sugar Creek in the Catawba River watershed. Sugar Creek flows into the main stem of the Catawba River.
The spill was one of the largest in recent memory due to the wide diameter of the pipe affected, according to Jennifer Frost, public affairs manager at Charlotte Water.
The sewage spilled from a break in a 21-inch sewer main pipe in the 700 block of Farmhurst Drive, according to the utility. Farmhurst Drive connects with Nations Ford Road, Charlotte Water reported.
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The wastewater spilled for about 11 hours, Frost said. She said responders had trouble getting to the site of the break and encountered issues installing a bypass due to the unusually large size of the pipe. Most pipes are less than a foot in diameter, she said.
It’s impossible to determine the exact cause of the break, Charlotte Water spokesman Cam Coley said.
Perkins said the spill created “serious public health concerns” about recreation this weekend downstream of where Sugar Creek meets the Catawba River.
“The Lake Wylie dam and Riverwalk (Rock Hill) access points are upstream and unaffected, but downstream are the Catawba Indian, Landsford Canal and Highway 9 access points,” he said. “This is a popular stretch, especially on a hot summer weekend.”
As of Saturday, Landsford Canal State Park, a popular recreational area in South Carolina about 45 miles south of Charlotte, had posted advisories against boating, wade fishing and swimming in the water. The advisories are posted at the entrance to the park as well as bathrooms and fence posts.
No down-system drinking water supplies were impacted, according to Frost.
Perkins said he encouraged the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to place warning signs at landings, which the department said it would.
The department also is notifying downstream drinking water systems with intakes on the river, most immediately Lancaster and Chester counties in South Carolina and Union County in North Carolina, he said.