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Clogged pipe leads to 20,000 gallons of sewage in Rum River


A clogged pipe near a water treatment plant in Cambridge led to 20,000 gallons of raw sewage being discharged into the Rum River.

It was reportedly a boater on the river who first noticed the leak and alerted the city. KARE 11 says a 14-inch sewer main had backed up on Monday, unbeknownst to tubers who were floating down the river.

WCCO reports a representative of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency agreed with Cambridge's director of utilities, Todd Schwab, that 20,000 gallons is a small enough portion of the Rum River's flow that it did not pose any safety threat to recreational use of the Rum. The MPCA tells the station no emergency cleanup is planned.

Wipes in pipes to blame?

As FOX 9 reports, a construction project is underway at the Cambridge Water Treatment Facility. It was not immediately clear if the blocked pipe was related to that work, but that's something that will be considered as the cause is investigated.

But utility director Schwab tells the station he suspects disposable wipes are the culprit. Schwab says many of the wipes are labeled as flushable, but he says they've been causing problems in sewer systems around the country.

Just last week the operator of Burley, Idaho's wastewater collection system told the Times-News: "The wipes are killing us." Stormy Oldham tells the site the wipes get tangled in equipment, get caught in pumps, and jam up sewer lines because they don't disintegrate.

Burley's wastewater director says some cities have even hired people to bundle wipes and transport them to landfills. Last year USA Today reported Sauk Centre had hired a contractor to vacuum out a lift station. A city supervisor told the newspaper, "When you put these type of rags down there, they don't come apart. They just stay with it all the way to the pumps."

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