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A sanitary sewer main leak caused 55,000 gallons of raw sewage to spill Tuesday morning into the Kansas River in the Oakland community in Topeka, KS, officials said.

The cause of the leak hadn’t yet been determined, said Bob Sample, the city’s general manager of water pollution control. He said the pipe involved ended up built in the early 1970s.

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The city notified downstream users of the spill, Sample said.

City employees discovered the leak about 10:30 a.m., as they saw raw sewage flowing through a ditch on the south side of N.E. River Road.

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Workers immediately rerouted the flow from the pipe involved into another pipe that was capable of accomplishing the same purpose, thus preventing any further sewage from spilling into the river, Sample said.

A foul stench hung in the air Tuesday afternoon in the area where the break occurred as city employees awaited the arrival of a private contractor to dig in the area to find the leak.

Barricades blocked motorists from using N.E. River Road northeast of the intersection of N.E. Division and Lake.

Sample said the city planned to use the repair process as an opportunity to investigate the integrity of the rest of the pipe so they can locate and repair any more weaknesses.

He said the sewer line involved is a force main that transports untreated sewage from parts of south Topeka to the Oakland Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Tuesday’s spill came after the city previously made news when 3 million gallons of raw sewage discharged into the Kansas River between April 24 and 26 after a power failure at the city’s south Kansas River pump station at 2400 N.W. Waterworks Drive. Also, the city dealt with a surge of heavy rain July 7 by dumping as many as 50 million gallons of sewage into the river before it underwent a secondary cleaning process. Sample said the bypass was allowable under a Kansas Department of Health and Environment permit.

The city will continue to monitor the river as a precautionary measure, Sample said.

He advised residents to exercise normal precautions when accessing the Kansas River, including:
• Keeping their heads above water
• Showering and shampooing hair immediately after returning home from swimming or wading in the river
• Immediately washing any wet clothing, hands and other exposed parts of the body after fishing from the river
• Fully cooking any fish taken from the river before eating

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