Sewer spill threatening North Canadian River went unreported by Oklahoma town
SPENCER, Okla. (KOKH) —
A raw sewage spill with the potential to impact the North Canadian River in the Oklahoma City metro went unreported until a FOX 25 Investigation. The spill happened due to a break in the main sewer line which connects the city of Spencer’s sewage storage to a water treatment facility.
The leak happened just south of 63rd and Douglass in a pipe that crosses a small creek. On the concrete guardrails of the bridge are signs warning anyone the creek drains into the North Canadian River. During the rainy season, the creek water freely flows through the farmland in and around Spencer. In the fall, the creek bed is dry, which is what made the muddy puddle so troubling to people like Keith Remer who came to investigate the rumors of a sewage leak on the day FOX 25 was looking into the situation.
“I smelled septic, sewer, it was unpleasant you know,” Remer told FOX 25. While raw sewage may not be pleasant to see or smell, in the rural area surrounded by farmland it may not seem like a concern. That is, until you consider where that sewage will end up after the next rain.
Remer owns and operates Honey Lee Ranch, which relies on the river.
“The North Canadian is a big draw for us because, first off, we're in the heart of the metro and we've got nearly 30 miles of horseback trails,” Remer said. “But the draw is people love to ride their horses on those river sands.”
This is not the first sewer leak near here for Spencer. According to records from the Department of Environmental Quality, the city was cited in October of this year for another unauthorized bypass of raw sewage.
Records provided to FOX 25 by the DEQ indicate the city has had problems with sewage leaks and spills for more than five years. In 2013, the DEQ went to court to enforce the environmental requirements and to require the city to maintain its system so pollutants from the raw sewage were contained to the sewer lines.
In an email to FOX 25, the DEQ noted the city is required to notify the agency of leaks. However, when FOX 25 asked about the current situation the agency said it was unaware of any current leaks, but sent an investigator to inspect the location.
“DEQ went to the site and determined that the city main was bypassing into a wet weather drainage basin that flows into the North Canadian River,” Erin Hatfield, the DEQ communications director wrote. “DEQ completed an inspection noting that the bypass had to be corrected immediately.”
The city of Spencer did not agree to our requests for an on-camera interview. A spokesperson for the city only said the leak had been fixed, but they did not know why the DEQ was not notified or if there were any plans to make upgrades to stop future sewage spills.
For now, the environmental worries are over for people who farm and ranch near the creek and the North Canadian River. For people who rely on the river for a living, like Remer, he hopes the city will take the necessary steps to protect the environment.