Winooski River Sewage Leak Prompts Health Department Recommendations


DATE: April 7, 2005

Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON – A sewer pipe serving the New North End of Burlington broke under the Winooski River during the evening of Monday, April 4. The break prompted the Department of Health to issue recommendations for recreational use of the Winooski River below the Heineberg Bridge to the outflow into Lake Champlain until the leak is repaired.

Although several thousand gallons of sewage are entering the river and flowing into Lake Champlain, factors such as time of year and water temperature have reduced the possibility for people or animals to be exposed to the sewage. Dr. Cort Lohff, state epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health said “the river level is high right now from snow melt, which is diluting the leaking sewage.”

The risk of contamination from bacteria contained in the leaking sewage may be low at this time. However the health department is recommending that dogs not swim in the river below the Heineberg Bridge to Lake Champlain, or be rinsed off after swimming, until the leak is repaired. Fish caught in the river during the first day of fishing season this Saturday can be eaten, but people handling fish should wash their hands with soap and water before eating or smoking cigarettes.

“Anyone who is in contact with river water should wash their hands immediately afterward. This includes petting a dog that just swam in the river, handling fish, or children who are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths,” recommends Dr. Lohff.

The town health officer for Colchester has posted areas along the river below the Heineberg Bridge including the boat access, to beaches in the Colchester area, alerting the public to possible water contamination.

For more information about health issues related to the sewage leak, the public is asked to call the Department of Health’s Burlington District Office at 863-7323.