News Release 471

Root-clogged sewer line results in Milan wastewater overflow

Volume 37-471 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Renee Bungart

JEFFERSON CITY, MO., DEC. 8, 2009 -- A root-clogged sewer line resulted in the release of an undetermined amount of untreated wastewater into an unnamed tributary to East Fork Locust Creek in Milan Thursday, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced today.

An inspector from the department's Northeast Regional Office, Macon, discovered the sewage in the tributary Thursday afternoon while in Milan investigating another complaint.

The investigator contacted city officials, who reported they were first notified of the overflow 8:15 a.m. Thursday. City crews discovered and removed the roots that had clogged the sewer line, and the overflow stopped about 2 p.m. City officials have dammed the tributary and will continue to remove the sewage.

The initial investigation showed the sewage affected about one-half mile of the tributary before reaching East Fork Locust Creek. A survey of East Fork Locust Creek found no apparent impact from the release. The investigator collected field samples from both the tributary and East Fork Locust Creek.

The release of untreated sewage from sewer systems, known as sanitary sewer overflows, or SSOs, are a significant threat to public health and the environment. SSOs occur for several reasons. As in this case sewer lines can become blocked, causing sewage to backup and overflow the system.

In other cases, as sewer systems age they develop openings where excessive rainfall or snowmelt can enter and cause the water and sewage to exceed the sewer's capacity. In either case such overflows can contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems.

In order to protect public health and the environment, the department requires communities to take appropriate action to eliminate their SSO issues. To do this, DNR recommends that communities develop a system to track information about overflows, including the date, time, location and size of the overflow, weather data, who notified them, when they notified the department and the measures taken to respond. The community can then use this data to aid in developing a plan to inspect the collection system and plan and finance upgrades the system to reduce SSOs.

To report an environmental emergency, including sewage overflows, please contact the DNR spill line at 573-634-2436. For more information contact the department at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-3443, or visit the department's Web page at