Sewer leak in Brandon flows into waterway

BRANDON — Old pipes and erosion led to a break in a Brandon sewer pipe, spilling over 1 million gallons of raw sewage into the Neshobe River.
The break was discovered on March 7, and the spill was estimated to have begun Feb. 22, two weeks earlier.
Brandon Town Manager Dave Atherton said the area around the pipe, down past Mill Lane almost to the post office, had eroded and exposed the 12-inch concrete sewer pipe, which dates back to the 1930s. The pipe was broken open in two places where it runs along the Neshobe between two manholes.
The pipe was fixed within 24 hours, Atherton said.
The river had been running high for days due to warmer temperatures and snowmelt during the time of the spill, he said. The Brandon Wastewater Plant was experiencing high flows at that time that weren’t going down, he said, and that’s when the broken pipe was discovered.
“The river was running into the pipe, and the pipe was running into the river,” Atherton said.
Unfortunately, this was not the only spill listed on the monthly Watershed Management Report from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The report, which covers Feb. 12-March 12, lists sewer overflows in Manchester into the Battenkill River and Shelburne into Lake Champlain during that time period. The Manchester spill was small, 100-1,000 gallons, and Shelburne was estimated at 100,000-500,000 gallons.
Then there was a listing for “wet weather combined sewer overflows.” There were three in Montpelier and three in Rutland, plus another one in Barton. Again, all of the spills were estimated to be between 100-1,000 gallons, except one, which was just under 100,000 gallons.
All of this points to the ongoing issue of Vermont’s aging municipal infrastructure. Brandon’s wastewater plant was built in 1960, and there are 22 miles of sewer pipe running through town, much of which was installed from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Atherton said the fact that the pipes often run along the river makes potential breaks even more dangerous.
“Why they would run a sewer pipe along the river, I have no idea,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. This is a problem statewide. We all have aging infrastructure. We just fixed a half-mile of pipe out of 22 miles, so we have a ways to go. There has been years of not-so-good maintenance and we’re playing catch up.”

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