07 June 2011

Waterfowl Return After Pollution Event

Wood Ducks have been noticed again on the waters of Happy Hollow Creek.

For several days, they had been missing, and there is a readily apparent reason.

The creek was tainted by an accidental discharge of sewage. The situation was obvious during the Memorial Day weekend, as the creek water was a dull-brown color rather than a clear water, and then a smell became obvious. After noting this, the source was located just south of Cass Street along Happy Hollow Boulevard.

There was an ample flow where there was typically none, except during and after precipitation events. It seemed there was at least five gallons a minute being discharged.

The effluent went from Happy Hollow Creek on the east side of Memorial Park, and then into Wood Creek which goes through Elmwood Park.

The aberrant situation was reported on June 2nd to the Environmental Services section at the Omaha Public Works Department.

A technician provided this followup report:

"An Environmental Inspector visited the area of Cass & Happy Hollow in response to the complaint received regarding a suspect discharge into the creek, the same morning of the report. They found a black corrugated plastic pipe on the east side of Elmwood Creek with an active discharge ... cloudy white in color. A faint sewage odor was present and some sanitary sewage accumulation was present along the creek bottom near the outfall.
"They contacted Sewer Maintenance to inform them of a potential cross connection. Sewer maintenance sent a crew to meet the inspector on site. While awaiting their arrival the inspector drove through the neighborhood along the portion of storm sewer that was upstream of the outfall to see if they could see any recent disturbance on any of the lots. When Sewer Maintenance arrived, they checked the outfall and they agreed that the discharge was from a sanitary sewer source. A sanitary sewer in the middle of Happy Hollow Blvd (MH #0166041) was opened and an overflow structure was present. The bypass was built into the sanitary sewer MH from when it was a combined sewer line and had not been capped when the lines were separated. A grab sample of the effluent was taken for analysis. A foreman in sewer maintenance was also contacted about getting a construction crew scheduled to correct the problem."

This problem would have continued unabated if it had not been reported, and the city agency asks that if anyone notices any "If you or your neighbors notice any suspect discharge into the creek please do not hesitate to contact my office at 402-444-3908."

The city was required to report the accidental release to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

A local community group, when this event was mentioned to a former president, were not aware that it had happened.

The creek still has scum accumulations which will hopefully get washed out with the next substantive rainfall making the habitat more suitable for ducks and other fowl.