Leak fixed, no fines levied against town

The sewage leak at Cove Island has been successfully fixed, according to a report released by the Darien Department of Public Works on Friday, Feb. 28, at 4:50 p.m. Darien has been aware of the leak since Valentine’s Day, but problems with valves and delays in shipping of new parts kept the leak active for the past two weeks.

However, Darren  Oustafine, assistant director of public works, said the leak that’s been ongoing since the initial repair was not sewage, but groundwater.

“Today when we cut the pipe to install new pieces, we found that no sewage was leaking from the open ends of the pipe,” Oustafine stated in an email. “Valves were tight after all. Pipe was isolated. The leakage that we saw, could have been residual pressure (initially) and then ground water seeping in and out of the pipe after the joint was made ‘loose’ by destructive investigating.  We only noticed leakage when we pumped down the water in the excavated hole.”

The amount of sewage lost was estimated to be 800 gallons, although it’s unclear how long the leak was active before it was discovered by a passer-by.

The town faces no fines after a sewage spill.

Carlos Esguerra, a sanitary engineer with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, said Darien responded to the spill and notified his office “immediately after they found out about the incident.”

“Based on this information the DEEP is not considering levying fines or issuing enforcement actions at the present time,” Esguerra stated in an email to The Darien Times.

Some residents of Holly Pond were concerned that estimated amount of spillage was less than what actually leaked. Esguerra said there are no “one-size-fits-all type of formulas or ways for determining volumes of sewage released into the environment.”

“Every situation is different,” he said. If “the release occurs for example out in the street due to a pipe blockage or rupture, then it becomes more difficult to estimate this volume. Estimating this volume will depend on how fast… staff can respond to the incident, how severe is the pipe blockage/rupture, sewage accumulated out on the street or surrounding areas, witness accounts, ultimate destination of volume released, etc.”

Initial estimates indicated the spill was leaking 6,000 gallons daily, but later figures had reduced that number significantly. It’s unclear how long the leak was active before it was discovered by a passer-by around the time of the February blizzard.

The Bureau of Aquaculture closed shellfishing for a two-mile radius around the spill site — well into Long Island Sound. The area has since been reopened.

Public works officials have declined to comment on how they estimated the leak amount. The fixed leak will cost the town roughly $25,000, according to Bob Steeger, public works director.

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