Sewage isn't being dumped into Moose Lake area waters anymore


Poop water isn't being dumped into a Moose Lake river and lake anymore.

Floodwaters had overwhelmed the treatment plant in Moose Lake, forcing the operators to dump wastewater into Moose Horn Lake and the Moosehead River, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said.

Doing that kept the untreated sewage water from backing up into residents’ homes.

The sewage was being discharged at a rate of 450 gallons per minute as of Wednesday night, and staff were monitoring levels to see when it would be safe to stop.

That happened Thursday morning.

Anne Moore with the Pollution Control Agency tweeted everything was back online, and the overflow ended at 6 a.m.

Craig Weingart, a wastewater and storm water inspector with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said at this point they don't have an estimate on how many total gallons of sewage was released, beyond Wednesday evening's estimate of 450 gallons per minute. That number will be reported next month.

But for some context – that wastewater facility gets, on average, about 500,000 gallons of water coming into it every single day, he said.

The agency, by the way, says municipal wastewater is mostly just water – about 97 percent of it, in fact.

Here's some video of the flooding:

Is the water safe to drink?

Update: A spokesperson with the Department of Health says staff there aren't aware of any drinking water wells affected from the wastewater discharge.

But, they said, with all the rain it's possible that drinking water wells somewhere in the area were affected.

Going forward, if they find flood water got within 50 feet of a well, it will be tested. And if flood water did get into a well, it won't be used for drinking water until it's been "cleaned, disinfected and tested."

You can find more about the Department of Health's well protection policies here.

And how about to swim?

According to Weingart, in general after flooding, you shouldn't get in the water (especially if the water is touching your body).

Not just if there's a sewage discharge – things like farm runoff can get picked up from the land and end up in the lakes or river.

"Floodwaters often contain all sorts of pollutants and potential hazards to human health form various sources," he said. "It's runoff from the land surface and from home, yards, businesses and areas there. So in general, stay out of the floodwaters there."

That includes rivers and lakes.

As for when you can jump in? Weingart said there's no hard and fast timeline, but an eye test is a good start.

"If it doesn't look right, stay out. Protect yourself," he said.

The Pollution Control Agency has more detailed guidelines here.

We've also reached out to the Minnesota Department of Health to check on the drinking water in the area, and will update this post when we hear back.

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