Raw sewage spills into Housatonic River

Officials reports leak less severe than originally feared
housatonic river
A scene from the Housatonic River near Kent, CT, downstream of the spill (photo: Bob P.B. / cc2.0).

Ask any avid angler to name western trout rivers that are famous in modern fly fishing culture and they'll rattle off a dozen without pause, just by naming rivers in Montana. Then they'll throw in another dozen from the likes of Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Ask the same of the East, and you'll likely garner much less prolific results. It's not that eastern anglers don't have their fair share of good trout fishing, it's just that unlike the West, the East only has a handful of iconic rivers instead of a plethora. One of those handful is Connecticut's Housatonic, a fact which makes yesterday's spill of an untold number of gallons of raw, untreated sewage into the Housatonic River of considerable concern not just to anglers but to kayakers, rafters and others that fill their summers with days spent on the Housatonic.

Late Wednesday evening, repair crews responded to reports of a broken sewage main that conveys 2.5 million gallons of raw human sewage per day where the main crosses the Housatonic near Dalton, Massachusetts, not far from the river's origin and approximately 30 miles north of the Connecticut border. The break in the sewage pipe was described as partial, but at the time crews initially responded, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) told the Connecticut Post that the "volume of impact and the release rate [of sewage] are unknown."

The Housatonic originates in Massachusetts' Berkshires before flowing over 100 miles through Massachusetts and Connecticut, eventually emptying into Long Island Sound.

According to updated statements from the Massachusetts DEP, crews responded to the reported spill quickly and we're able to contain and bypass the leak after approximately 7 hours. Spokesperson Catherine Skiba from the Massachusetts DEP also reported that "The leak was fortunately much smaller than initially reported as the sewer main was only partially separated ... We are concerned with any discharge but this was much smaller than it could have been," Skiba told the Berkshire Eagle.

The latest available information indicates that, before crews were able to contain the spill, sewage was leaking into the Housatonic at a rate of approximately 15 gallons per minute, though it remains unknown how long sewage was leaking into the river before the leak was reported.