Weather News

640,000 gallons of sewage spills in Johnston County after Hurricane Dorian’s rain

Rain from Hurricane Dorian have triggered a 640,000-gallon sewage spill into a Johnston County creek, county officials reported.

The untreated sewage flowed into Mill Creek from a location in Selma for more than seven hours on Friday, according to a county news release. Mill Creek flows into the Neuse River.

In an interview Monday, Johnston’s Public Utilities Director Chandra Cox Farmer said more than five and a half inches of rain fell in Johnston last week, causing stormwater to get into the wastewater collection system.

Most of the stormwater came from Selma, Farmer said. The town is working on correcting the problems, she said.

“They are aware there are some infiltration issues,” she said. “That brings it to light even more.”

The creek was polluted at the same spot in 2016, when flooding from Hurricane Matthew sent about 8.76 million gallons of untreated sewage into the water, The News & Observer reported.

The Selma town manager and the town’s water plant superintendent could not be reached Monday.

No spills from hog farm lagoons were reported during Dorian, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality tracking system.

Matthew Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, said riverkeepers, who routinely look for lagoon overflows after storms, found none this time.

“We dodged a bullet,” he said.

The state riverkeepers are reporting to the state Department of Environmental Quality seven suspected violations of farmers spraying waste from the lagoons onto fields at prohibited times, Starr said. The report includes aerial photos of spraying, farm locations, and in some cases, permit numbers.

“They’re spraying before a sizable rain event,” Starr said. “It has the potential to run off.”

DEQ spokeswoman Sharon Martin said in an email that state law prohibited her from commenting on specific complaints, but that the department investigates complaints submitted to staff.