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Impact minimal from sewage spill at Naval Station Newport

Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island.

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By LAURA DAMON | Newport Daily News, R.I. | Published: August 20, 2019

NEWPORT, R.I. (Tribune News Service) — The environmental impact is minimal after a sewer line at Naval Station Newport failed Monday and discharged approximately 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage into Newport Harbor, according to an official with the Department of Environmental Management.

"Sewage is mostly water and dilutes quickly when entering a large waterbody like the harbor or bay. Our calculations are that this spill dissipated quickly within an area of the harbor that is closed to shellfish harvesting and will have minimal environmental impact," Chief Public Affairs Director Michael Healey said in an email to The Daily News on Tuesday.

The sewage overflow site is just east of a large area that already is prohibited to harvesting shellfish because of the Newport wastewater treatment facility's outfall, activities at the Naval Station and other potential pollutant sources to Newport Harbor, according to a press release sent by DEM on Monday night.

Lisa Rama, public affairs officer for Naval Station Newport, said a sewer line at Naval Station Newport ruptured and was discovered about 9:30 a.m. Monday; flow to the line was shut off right before 11:30 a.m. that day, she said.

The ruptured pipe was repaired about 7:40 p.m. Monday night, she said. Healey added about eight feet of pipe was replaced.

In her 13-year career with Naval Station Newport, this is the first time something like this has happened, Rama added. "The Navy cares about the oceans" and all hands were on deck to remedy the issue, she said.

Since notifying DEM of the failure of the force main on Monday morning, Navy personnel had used septage haulers and their own vacuum truck to keep the plant's wet wall from overflowing again, according to a press release from DEM sent Monday night. A force main is a pipeline connecting wastewater from the discharge side of a pump to a discharge point.

Dave McLaughlin, executive director of Clean Ocean Access, said the bacteria in the water would be "a major issue and concern" in the area of the spill in the immediate aftermath; a bad situation for any person who happened to be swimming in the area at the time, for example. But he noted the spill occurred later in the evening in an area already closed to shellfishing; he added that over time the water would mix and dissipate.

"Not to de-emphasize the severity of the issue [but] 10,000 gallons relatively speaking is very small," McLaughlin said. "That water will be thoroughly mixed within one to two tide cycles." He added that the Clean Ocean Access team would be monitoring the water quality in Newport Harbor from Tuesday through Friday this week to be sure all is well for Sunday's Swim to Skim event, a 1.2 mile swim in Newport Harbor.

©2019 Newport Daily News, R.I.
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The green circle is where the sewage spill occurred at Naval Station Newport.
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