SPRINGFIELD — Western Massachusetts forecasters and farmers have been begging for any drop of rain they can get this season, but not so in Springfield, which reported 6 million of gallons of sewage discharged into the Connecticut River after Wednesday’s rainstorm.
The overflow is made up of rainwater, untreated sewage and waste, the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission reported via alerts Wednesday afternoon and early Thursday morning. Discharges — known as “combined sewer overflows” among municipal wastewater operators — happen whenever there is heavy rain.
Wednesday’s alerts further warned area residents living downstream of the discharges to avoid contact with Connecticut River water for 48 hours after sewer overflows, because of the health risks from bacteria and contaminants washed into the city sewer system; the discharges ended just before 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The commission named Springfield, West Springfield, Agawam and Longmeadow as affected communities.
At an overflow site just north of the Memorial Bridge, from 5:30 to 6:10 p.m., about 3,834,507 gallons were discharged into the river, when some of the showers were the heaviest.
At another outflow site along Clinton Street, an estimated 2,015,802 gallons dumped into the region’s primary waterway between 5:55 and 6:40 p.m.
Near Rowland Street, another 160,271 gallons ended up in the river, in a span of just 5 minutes, beginning at 5:15 p.m., the commission reported.
In Springfield, overflows date back to the construction of its sewer system in the late 1800s, and the Water and Sewer Commission has been working on the problem since the 1990s.
Jaimye Bartak, communications manager for the commission, said in an email Thursday that the city is finishing its $137 million York Street Pump Station and Connecticut River Crossing Project, which will increase the pumping capacity from city sewer pipes to the wastewater treatment plant on Bondi’s Island. With the improvements, overflows are expected to be reduced by about 100 million gallons a year.
“When the project is completed next year, it is expected that CSO volume into the (Connecticut River) in a typical year will be reduced by approximately 50 percent from when we started CSO reduction efforts,” Bartak said.
Commission staff estimate the discharge amounts by factoring the total overflow volume with the total number of overflow events over a three-year span.
For a map of the discharge sites, visit springfieldalerts.com.