Great Hills Park sewer spill clean up over, repair continues

A small ravine which runs through Great Hills Park is where the sewer line break happened Sunday morning. Bypass lines were laid out, diverting the wastewater out of a manhole and down through a network of metal pipes.

Crews spent Monday morning digging into rock and dirt to reach the break. A possible cause has been determined according to Kevin Koeller, managing engineer for Austin Water.

"We believe the break was a failed line, a broken line … age, reached the end of its useful life, and failed,” said Koeller.

Replacing the line, Koeller said could take days if not weeks to complete.

"It is a more complicated repair because it is in the creek area and will take some time to do. I don’t have an estimated time, no,” said Koeller.

For residents of the Northwest Austin neighborhood, construction noise should be the only major inconvenience.

"They've been out here all morning, working, getting it done, can't thank them enough for doing the hard work … It has not impacted us, not whatsoever,” said resident Beth Komolov who added she was thankful for being upstream, not down.

More than 100,000 gallons of wastewater spilled, but the exact amount is unknown. The sewage pooled up into a mostly dry creek bed. Removal operations wrapped up Monday morning.

Crews with Watershed Protection were also on scene. They took water samples downstream, tracking the spill to make sure it didn't end up into Bull Creek. The sewage didn't get close. Bull Creek Park is about four miles from where the sewer line broke. 

"We are surprised to how fast the odors are dissipating, we measured the final extent of the spill to reach about a half a mile downstream before it meets with another tributary, which does have considerable flow,” said Ryan Hebrink, a water quality specialist with Austin Watershed Protection.

What didn't get scooped out will be filtered out by mother nature.

"A little bit of spring flow is diluting the residual small pockets that were not recoverable, and on top of that the substrate of this tributary is quiet gravelly and rocky so a lot of it is soaking into the ground and drying out very quickly,” said Hebrink. 

The trail at Great Hills Park will remain closed until the repair work is done.