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15 Million-Gallon Sewage Spill Is Largest In Charlotte History

This week's massive sewage spill at a creek in north Charlotte was the largest ever recorded by Charlotte Water.

In total, an estimated 15.4 million gallons of raw sewage poured into a stretch of Long Creek off Oakdale Road. That's roughly enough sewage to fill about 23 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The next two largest spills both released about 4.8 million gallons of sewage. Those spills occurred on Oct. 25, 2017 on Mallard Creek and on May 22, 2003 on McAlpine Creek, according to Charlotte Water.

This week's spill is believed to have been caused by a falling tree and flash flooding, which resulted in a rupture of the 30-inch sewage pipe, located about 50 feet off the bank of Long Creek. It's not clear how long sewage flowed out of the pipe before the spill was reported Monday night by a person who was walking along the creek and noticed a number of dead fish in the water.

City crews contained the spill around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday afternoon, crews were still working to repair the sewage pipe.

Rusty Rozzelle, program director for Mecklenburg County Water Quality, says the impacts of the spill will likely be minimal, thanks to heavy rain over the past few days that has helped flush the creek and dilute the sewage.

Still, officials in Belmont said they were remaining cautious, noting the spill occurred about two miles upstream of where the city gets its drinking water.

Chuck Flowers, utility director for the city of Belmont, said the utility was monitoring bacteria levels and had yet to record anything out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, the utility was taking the added step of pre-treating incoming water with chlorine and pre-disinfectant.

Mecklenburg County officials were also taking proactive measures,issuing a "no swimming" advisory for Long Creek and parts of Lake Wylie, which the creek flows into.

Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper, said the spill highlighted the region's need to update its stormwater system, saying the infrastructure has not kept up with rapid development.

"It is an example of what we might see more of if we continue to develop and not properly manage our stormwater," Perkins said.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal