Josie Taylor | March 24, 2022
A wastewater pipe break near Birdland Park in Des Moines caused about 2 million gallons of untreated wastewater to leak into the Des Moines River on Tuesday, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This leak did not affect drinking water.
The station has an overflow pipe that discharges directly into the river. An estimated 3,500 gallons of diluted wastewater flowed through it each minute. Tom Atkinson, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR, said this likely happened due to cold temperatures, although leaks are most common when there’s heavy rain.
The leak created a murky plume in the river, but the environmental effects were muted because the river is so large. DNR does not believe that any fish were killed due to the leak.
Des Moines, along with other cities in Iowa, combine sewer systems, meaning they transport wastewater and stormwater runoff in the same pipes. Such systems are prone to leaking untreated wastewater into waterways.
A project to separate the systems is expected to finish this year, according to the city’s website.