Rupture in line spills sewage onto parkway

The westbound lanes of the Riverside Parkway were closed from the Fifth Street overpass Tuesday after a semi drove over and damaged the temporary sewer line under construction near West Avenue. The accident caused a large spill of raw sewage onto the roadway.



Tens of thousands of Mesa County residents likely were awakened early Tuesday morning by a phone call none of them requested.

City officials apologized, saying they inadvertently notified far more citizens than they should have about the closure of Riverside Parkway.

The Grand Junction Regional Communication Center uses a computerized system to notify citizens about a variety of incidents happening in the area. The emergency notification side of the system, for which more than 60,000 phone numbers and email addresses have been registered, lets people know about critical incidents such as floods and fires. The community notification side of the system, for which “several thousand” people have signed up, according to police spokeswoman Kate Porras, lets them know about less serious matters such as road closures.

Just before 7 a.m., a 911 dispatcher, intending to send a road-closure notification to citizens who have specifically requested that information, instead sent the alert to the 60,000-plus phones and other devices registered for emergency notification, Porras said.

“We understand that this mistake disrupted some people’s mornings. We don’t like being awakened before our alarm clocks go off either. Please accept our apology and realize we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” the Police Department wrote on its blog.

The westbound lanes of a nearly two-mile stretch of Riverside Parkway remained closed overnight after Grand Junction city officials say a semitrailer accidentally ruptured a sewer line, spilling several hundred gallons of raw sewage onto the roadway early Tuesday morning.

None of the sewage was believed to have reached the Colorado River.

The semitrailer was eastbound on the parkway west of West Avenue around 1 a.m. when it drove over a temporary, above-ground sewer line crossing the parkway.

City Utility Engineer Bret Guillory said the semi accidentally hooked the pipe, dragged it about 30 yards and ruptured it. The temporary line is in place while crews repair a large concrete line underneath the parkway.

“It didn’t cross (the line) totally square. (The semi) got onto the high part of the bump and just drug it,” he said.

Fortunately, Guillory said, the amount of sewage in the line was minimal and a pump feeding the line was running only about six seconds every minute. Construction workers who were at the scene were able to shut down the pumps within seven minutes and threw sandbags around a catch basin that leads to a stormwater drainage line, he said. They then placed sump pumps in the catch basin to pump out the sewage.

Guillory said less than 500 gallons of sewage was spilled, and it was contained to the street and the catch basin. He said he doubted any sewage got down the line, which eventually empties into the river.

“As sewer overflows go, this is a very minor one,” he said.

Workers were prepared to finish the sewer-line replacement project today. The project, which started around Thanksgiving, had already been delayed due to cold weather. Crews spent hours cleaning up the sewage and repairing the temporary sewer line.

The eastbound lanes of the parkway reopened between 25 Road and West Avenue around 7 a.m. Tuesday, while the westbound lanes between Fifth Street and 25 Road were expected to reopen this morning at 6.

The driver of the semi was not ticketed, according to Grand Junction police spokeswoman Kate Porras.


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