Environment

More than a half million gallons of fresh sewage is expected to flow into Harrods Creek after a pressurized sewer pipe break in Prospect, Kentucky.

Officials with the Metropolitan Sewer District say workers learned of a small leak in late November, but things got much worse Wednesday morning.

“Sometime early this morning that line completely gave out and totally failed,” said Brian Bingham, Metropolitan Sewer District Chief of Operations. “This is a 30-inch force main. There is about a half a million gallons that go through that line each day to be treated.”

The sewage is flowing directly into Harrods Creek, past multiple marinas and into the Ohio River upstream of Louisville. MSD is monitoring for environmental impacts and officials are asking people to avoid contact with the creek.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

More than a half million gallons of fresh sewage is expected to flow into Harrods Creek after a force main break in Prospect, Kentucky, on December 11, 2019.

Sewage can cause fish kills, as it did last year on Beargrass Creek, but Bingham said he thinks Harrods Creek is large enough to withstand the negative impacts. Still, he said the sewage could linger because the creek is a backwater of the Ohio River.

“The biggest impact is going to be the stream,” Bingham said. “It doesn’t flow very well unless there are rain events so the flushing that could occur in this stream doesn’t happen as fast as it does in other places.”

While much of the 3,300 miles of pipe under MSD’s control are aging, the sewage in this case is coming from a line installed only about six years ago. MSD isn’t yet sure what happened, but said the worst case scenario would involve a broken pipe underneath Harrods Creek.

Bingham hopes to have the problem solved in a day or so, but in the meantime he’s asking Prospect residents to put off their next load of laundry, if possible.

Environmentalist and avid kayaker David Wicks paddles down the creek three or four times a week. He said it’s a “shame” to see the pollution entering the waterway, but it used to be a lot worse.

MSD installed the main to replace outdated package treatment plants that frequently failed causing sewage to overflow into the creek.

“One way to look at is that this used to happen all the time on Harrods Creek,” Wicks said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Harrods Creek on December 11, 2019.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.