An accidental discharge of raw sewage forced the closure of a stretch of the Kings River in Tulare County, Calif., on Monday, July 30. The cause of the spill from the City of Reedley Wastewater Treatment Plant was failed computer software, according to the Visalia Times-Delta newspaper. Workers discovered the problem when they reported for work Tuesday morning.
The plant is unmanned overnight, but an alarm should have notified personnel of the problem. The alarm failed due to the computer problem, allowing raw sewage to back up and overflow from a manhole a few blocks east of the plant for 10 to 12 hours. The original estimate of the amount of raw sewage released to the river was 63,000 gallons, but that was later reduced to 2,100 gallons.
Local officials posted health and safety warnings at downstream swimming, fishing and recreation areas. Public notices were also issued warning people to avoid contact with the river and to not use river water for irrigation and other purposes. One irrigation district draws water from the contaminated area but was not doing so at the time, according to local officials. The warnings were removed on Thursday, August 2 after lab tests showed normal bacteria levels.
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