City Council declares emergency to replace damaged sewer line under Moses Lake

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MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake City Council made an emergency declaration to expedite the replacement of a sewer main that ruptured under the lake Aug. 28, releasing at least 64,000 gallons of raw sewage into the water.

That release, which was discovered to be coming from a breach in the aging Knolls Vista Siphon, prompted a seven day no-contact advisory for the waters of Moses Lake. That pipeline is decades old and has had a history of breaches in recent years, according to a press release.

About five hours after the breach was discovered, City wastewater employees installed a steel band around the breach to stop the discharge.

Now, with the declaration of an emergency, the council has empowered city staff to waive the formal bidding process for the repairs, which entail rerouting the sewer mains in Northshore Drive, bypassing the Knolls Vista siphon by installing a gravity main directly to the Sage Bay Lift Station.

Once sewage is redirected to a line out from underneath the lake, the old stretch of pipe under the water that was the source of the breach will be capped off and allowed to remain under the lake, out of service, indefinitely.

Moses Lake resident Richard Teals, who initially reported seeing the sewage bubbling up above the surface of the lake, noted at Tuesday’s council meeting that detection might have been significantly slower if the breach had not occurred near a pylon that steered the sewage toward the surface of the lake.

Though it is not clear how long sewage was released into the lake before it was detected by Teals, detection would have taken longer if leak had not been so obvious, said Municipal Services Director Fred Snoderly.

At the earliest, the breach may have taken until the next morning to detect, when city staff take daily readings at the pump stations, Snoderly said. In response, council member Ryann Leonard suggested that, as the city deals with aging infrastructure and the potential for further leaks, the city should consider installing devices to detect breaks in lines earlier.

The line that broke shortly before Labor Day weekend, releasing raw sewage, is not the only decades-old stretch of pipe underneath Moses Lake, Snoderly said Tuesday. Though concerns were raised about potential future breaches in those other lines, no action was taken Tuesday night to address those concerns.

Emry Dinman can be reached via email at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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