Last week, the Idyllwild Water District reported a spill at its wastewater treatment plant. During the Feb. 15 board meeting, General Manager Jack Hoagland provided more information on the cause and current actions to prevent future accidents.

The leak was discovered about noon Tuesday, Feb. 7. Hoagland estimated it had begun about 5:30 a.m. About 44,000 gallons of treated effluent had escaped and flowed about 1,000 feet down the hill.

He stressed that the flow was treated, secondary water, not untreated waste water.

“Pond number 2 was overflowing. It breached the berm,” Hoagland said. “Fortunately, we could drain Pond 2 into Pond 6 … and by 1 p.m., it was no longer leaking.”

The unauthorized release was quickly reported to the U.S. Forest Service, from whom IWD leases the land for the plant, the State Water Resource Control Board’s Santa Ana unit and the Riverside County Department of Health.

Each agency has visited and examined the site. The Forest Service has requested some soil samples of the area, which IWD is collecting and analyzing.

Water sampling confirmed that the creek had less effluents below the leak than above the treatment facility.

A portion of the berm for holding Pond 2 gave way, according to Hoagland. He identified several causes for this failure. The volume of rain and precipitation run-off this winter greatly increased the soil saturation. Also, the staff could identify “extensive” gopher and ground-burrowing activity in the berm holding the water.

To avoid future spills, Hoagland has increased the frequency of inspecting the ponds. Also this summer, he plans to extend the retaining wall for this pond.