News Release 223

Tree roots cause wastewater overflow in Kansas City

Estimated 1,200 gallons of sewage escape to Blue River tributary

Volume 38-223 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Larry Archer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO., APRIL 14, 2010 – A root ball that caused a clog in a Kansas City wastewater line resulted in the release of an estimated 1,200 gallons of sewage into a tributary of the Blue River Tuesday, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Department officials are investigating the release, which began at approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 3300 block of Southern Hills Drive and ended at 8:30 p.m.

City crews have cleared the blockage from the wastewater line; pumped the water from the creek into which the sewage flowed back into the sewer system; posted signs warning the public of the overflow; taken samples to help determined whether there are any on-going environmental effects, and cleaned the path the sewage took from the manhole to the creek.

The department considers discharges of wastewater from sanitary sewer collection systems to be possible threats to public health and the environment. Such discharges have the potential to contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems.

Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by ruptured sewer lines, such as in this case, obstructions in sewer lines, mechanical failure, infiltration of rainwater and snow melt into aging systems or undersized systems that cannot compensate for sudden increases in wastewater.

Communities across Missouri produce millions of gallons of wastewater that must be properly transported and treated before being released to waterways. However, some communities are facing challenges in accomplishing this.

In order to protect public health and the environment, the department requires communities to take appropriate action to eliminate their sanitary sewer overflow issues. To do this, communities should develop a system to track information about such incidents, 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 system upgrades.

For more information on sanitary sewer overflows or other water quality issues, contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program at 573-751-1300 or 800-361-4827 or visit the department website at

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