News Release 427

Pump malfunction results in wastewater release from Columbia lift station

Volume 38-427 (For immediate release)
Contact: Larry Archer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JULY 26, 2010 – A malfunctioning lift station pump, possibly overworked by Stormwater from weekend rains, resulted in the release of an estimated 1,000 gallons of wastewater into a Columbia stream this morning, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

City officials in Columbia notified the department at approximately 9:30 a.m. of a wastewater overflow from manholes near the lift station located near Rock Quarry Road and East Gans Road on the city’s south side. City officials reported one of the two pumps at the lift station had overheated, possibly as a result from continuous pumping following weekend storms. With only one functioning pump at the lift station, wastewater backed up and escaped from two manholes into an unnamed tributary to Clear Creek. City crews restarted the second pump when they arrived on site, thus stopping the overflow.

The department responded to the scene and collected samples from the tributary, Clear Creek and within the boundaries of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. Clear Creek is a tributary to Little Bonne Femme Creek, which flows through the park.

Investigators discovered the water in the tributary to be cloudy from the wastewater in the creek. Clear Creek did not show any visual signs of contamination from the overflow. 

The department considers discharges of wastewater from sanitary sewer collection systems to be potential 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 mechanical failure; obstructions in sewer lines; 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’s 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 website at