City News

Raw sewage overflows into Labish Ditch

About 12,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into Labish Ditch Monday afternoon after a blocked city sewer line caused an overflow.

A buildup of obstructions including rags and grease led to the overflow at 6515 Whisper Creek Loop N.E. in Keizer, the city of Salem said in a news release Tuesday morning. The site is located near Gubser Elementary School.

Salem’s sewage treatment plant, Willow Lake Wastewater Pollution Control Facility, is located in Keizer.

Salem environmental services crews responded to the spill after it was reported around noon Monday and cleared it by 2 p.m., the city said. Residents should avoid marked sections of Labish Ditch and any contact with the waterway, the city said.

The ditch drains into Claggett Creek and ultimately the Willamette River.

“As the spill works its way to larger water bodies, potential bacteria exposure decreases as the spill is diluted and absorbed through the natural process of our streams and rivers. The greatest concern is near the point of the spill where the potential concentration of bacteria is the greatest. Over time and distance, the risk to the public decreases,” said Trevor Smith, city public works spokesman, in an email to Salem Reporter.

He said testing to establish the severity of the incident will continue, and results are reported to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The spill is the eighth sewer overflow for Salem this year, and the second requiring public notification because of spread through streams, creeks or river systems, Smith said.

Residents can avoid sewer backups and overflows by disposing of oils, grease and food scraps in the trash. Overflowing manholes and sewage spills can be reported to the public works dispatch center by calling 503-588-6333.

This story was updated Tuesday, Aug. 1 at 3:40 p.m. with more information from the city.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.