Supervisors at the Reedley Waste Water Treatment Plant said a software malfunction caused the system to go offline Monday and a backup alarm failed to alert them about the problem. They estimate up to 63,000 gallons of sewage spilled out over the next ten hours.
On Wednesday, "No swimming" signs were posted along the Tulare County portions of the Kings River. But the threat of sewage contamination wasn't enough to keep some people out of the water. "Unfortunately they were already in the water before we knew about the spill so we're just hoping with the flow and the current it will be okay," said Alicia Waldschmidt of Fountain Valley.
Reedley city administrators believe about three quarters of the 20,000 to 60,000 gallons of sewage that back flowed out of the system made its way to a backup pond. They said only a small portion spilled out of a manhole cover and into the Kings River. "The majority of the material that did come in was captured in our emergency pond. So at this point what we're doing is discharging from the emergency pond back into the wastewater treatment plans so that water can be captured and treated," said Martha Cardoso, the waste management superintendent.
Supervisors said the water treatment facility is fully functioning once again. Now, they're working to get to the bottom of that software glitch and figure out why the alarm system failed. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board is also investigating. "We are investigating what caused the spill and what has happened there and also reviewing our records as to the history as to spills that have been there in the past with the consideration of any enforcement," said Lonnie Wass, one of the agency's supervising engineers.
Water quality tests are being conducted to make sure the water is safe. While recreation areas in Tulare County remain closed to swimming, Reedley beaches were upstream from the spill and remain open.