COLUMBIA — Columbia area waterways were plagued by hundreds of gallons of leaking diesel fuel and a sewage overflow in separate incidents in recent days.

A sewer backup caused sewage to overflow for hours into a Richland County creek on Dec. 5 before crews stopped the spill.

Two days earlier, about 800 gallons of diesel fuel polluted a downtown creek that feeds the Congaree River.

Columbia Water confirmed a sanitary sewer line had overflowed just before 6 p.m. at a tributary of Lake Rebecca, part of Mill Creek south of Leesburg Road. The spill was stopped just after 9 p.m., utility spokesman Robert Yanity said.

A blockage in the sewer system near Hickory Ridge Drive is believed to be blamed for the spill. Crews were still on site the morning of Dec. 6 cleaning, Yanity said.

The utility couldn’t immediately say how much sewage flowed into the creek. Columbia Water notified nearby residents of the spill Sunday.

In a separate spill, hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel seeped into a tributary of the Congaree River on Dec. 3, according to the nonprofit Congaree Riverkeeper. An estimated 800 gallons of diesel leaked from a tank fueling a generator system at the Strom Thurmond Federal Building on Assembly Street and made its way into a creek near Memorial Park.

A cleanup contractor used booms, absorbent pads and vacuum trucks to work to contain the spill, said Bill Stangler, the Riverkeeper director. He noted the fuel floats near the top of the water and therefore spreads quickly.

Several miles of waterway in downtown Columbia was affected, Stangler said. He planned to follow up Dec. 6 on the status of the cleanup and learn more about how the spill occurred.

“What I always like to see is lessons learned, so we’re not repeating the same mistakes,” Stangler said.

State environmental officials are monitoring the cleanup, but the effort is under federal jurisdiction after the spill was reported to the federal National Response Center for cleanup, a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman said.

The state agency said the fuel leak was caused by an equipment failure that led to the diesel leaking into the ground and storm drain at the federal high-rise building, less than a mile north of Memorial Park and a few blocks from where the Broad, Saluda and Congaree rivers converge.

Extracted in full from: Columbia waterways plagued by diesel fuel, sewage in separate recent spills | Columbia News |