State investigating how Olympia sewage spill went undetected

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State investigators are trying to figure out how a massive sewage spill in Olympia went undetected for two months. The spill sent more than a million gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound.

"It's horrible for marine life and people, I know there are standup paddle boarders that get their feet in it," said Olympia resident Trever Pollman.

Only storm water should come out of a pipe that extends from underground, to Budd Inlet, but this week the city realized the pipe was contaminated with sewage.

"It's unfortunate, should have never happened in the first place," said Public Works Director Rich Hoey. "And then of course very disappointing that it went on for a two-month period until we found it."

The city admitted its mistake, but 1.5 million gallons of sewage had already hit Puget Sound.

How did the sewage get out? A maze of pipes run under the city of Olympia -- some carry storm water, others, sewage. Hoey says a crew failed to replace a barrier or plug after doing some maintenance and that let the sewage flow.

"So this was really a breakdown in our work processes," Hoey said.

Hoey says he already made changes, creating more detailed work orders, adding information to maps and follow up inspections.

"Preventing these kinds of spills is really a critical function and our top priority and we're just extremely disappointed that we had a break down in our processes," Hoey said. "We're going to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The city reported its spill to the Department of Ecology and the state is investigating, although they say it's unlikely the city will be fined for its actions.

Budd Inlet was already closed to shell fishing. The Thurston County Health Department says there are no additional health risks from the spill.