By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — About 3.7 million gallons of raw wastewater, including human waste, flowed into the Wisconsin River during a recent sewer backup on the city’s southeast side, according to a Wausau news release.

Eric Lindman, Wausau’s director of public works and utilities, released on Monday a detailed report on the overflow event, which was first reported on Jan. 23. According to the release, a review of wastewater treatment plant records revealed the estimated overflow, which was previously pegged at less than 1 million gallons. The Wisconsin DNR is now reviewing water samples to determine any potential health risk to the community.

Sewage overflows and leaks can be a threat to human and wildlife health. Untreated human sewage teems with salmonella, hepatitis, dysentery, cryptosporidium, and many other infectious diseases.

Once in the river, these bacteria and viruses can cause skin rashes, eye and ear infections stomach problems and diarrhea in those who come into contact with tainted water.

Meanwhile, city officials are reviewing potential improvements that might allow earlier detection of future problems.

“Long term plans to prevent recurrence include changes in system design at regulated industries discharging to this sewer line to prevent future line plugging and the possibility of additional incoming flow monitoring of the sewer lines entering the plant to detect significant flow changes for earlier warnings,” Lindman’s release stated.

Workers had originally thought the pipe, which carries wastewater from the southeast side across Lake Wausau and into the city’s sewer treatment plant, was cracked or broken.

Crews worked steadily through the night pumping wastewater into tanker trucks that transported the waste to the sewer treatment plant.

Then on Wednesday, utility crews discovered the pipe was not cracked after all, but was plugged, city officials said. A high pressure jetter cleared the jam, and the line was placed back in service Wednesday afternoon.

City leaders credit the quick response of Wausau Water Works in preventing potential sewer backups in neighborhood homes, which could have posed an immediate health risk to residents.PressReleaseSewerOverflow

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