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Large sewage spill in Healdsburg could take days to clean up

From the southern entrance to Healdsburg Avenue, a phalanx of road signs and markers split the traffic in to the under construction roundabout , Monday June 26, 2017. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2017

ELOÍSA RUANO GONZÁLEZ,

A sewage spill at the southern gateway to Healdsburg will likely take days to clean up, the latest snafu to bedevil the city’s controversial roundabout construction project.

The accident occurred Thursday when a hose diverting sewage kinked, causing the wastewater to back up and flow into a dry Foss Creek drainage channel, city spokeswoman Rhea Borja said Friday.

Concord contractor Bay Cities Paving and Grading was diverting sewage while replacing the sewer system in the area as part of the Healdsburg Avenue construction project, Borja said.

It’s unclear how much sewage spilled into the channel, just south of the roundabout construction project. Public works employees eventually fixed the hose, stopping the overflow.

“There’s nothing spilling out at this point,” Borja said Friday afternoon.

The city now is working with local contractor Miksis Services to remove the sewage, using two large vacuum trucks to suck up the slurry. It will likely take “days” to clear the mess, Borja said.

“We’re doing as much as we can at this point,” she said.

Healdsburg residents at first couldn’t put their nose on the spill. Emergency dispatchers initially received a report around 8 p.m. Thursday about hundreds of gallons of wine spilling into a creek.

“In some areas it smelled like sewer. In other areas it smelled like wine,” City Manager David Mickaelian said.

Firefighters responded to the call, eventually locating the spill. Public works employees worked through the night to contain it, Mickaelian said.

“It’s the talk of the Plaza right now,” said Anne Williamson, co-owner of Mill Street Antiques, which is located about 40 feet from the spill.

“It is an environmental concern for all of us. It’s a beloved creek,” she said.

People were complaining about the strong odor, but it has faded since then, she said. That’s a relief for Williamson, who is holding a flea market Saturday in the parking lot between her business and the creek.

Borja said the sewage was contained in a drainage channel and didn’t flow into Foss Creek, which currently is dry. The cost of the cleanup has not yet been determined, she said.

The contractor has come under fire in the town of 12,000 after major delays on the roundabout and infrastructure improvements, which started a year ago. The $10.3 million project was supposed to be finished last month, but winter rains and other complications pushed back the project. The contractor, who was the lowest bidder on the project, estimated it will be finished next May, although the city predicts it will likely take until August.

Bay Cities Paving and Grading owns the hose that backed up, Borja said. She declined to speculate on whether it will have to pay for the sewage cleanup.

“We’re investigating what exactly happened, how the issued started,” Borja said. “It’s going to be a slow, tedious process.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.