Emergency crews have arrived on scene of a break in a large sewer pipe that is pouring untreated sewage into Sandy Creek on the eastern edge of the city.
The pipe, either, 15 inches or 18 inches in diameter, apparently failed sometime Tuesday morning and the raw sewage has been flowing into the creek since then.
City manager Craig Jones said about 4 p.m. that crews were waiting for pumps to arrive so they could bypass the break and repair it.
Until then, the flow will continue.
Jones said he had no way to estimate the amount of sewage flowing into the creek. It varies, depending on how much water is going into the system from toilets, showers, sinks, washing machines and everywhere else.
Jones said it the sewage will continue to flow down Sandy Creek until the break is bypassed.
That is going to lead to a major cleanup of the creek bed.
"Chances are we'll have to disinfect it and clean up all the paper and debris," Jones said.
The city is notifying numerous state, local and federal agencies, including the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Kern County Department of Public Health, Department of Fish and Wildlife and others.
Because Sandy is still considered a navigable waterway, Jones said, the city can't dam the water up to prevent it from flowing down the creek bed.
"It's a natural waterway," he said. "You can't alter the stream bed."
Kim Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Kern Department of Public Health, said her department was notified about noon.
Jones said settling soil is most likely the cause of the leak.
"This area is really prone to soil subsidence," he said. "So we are assuming the soil subsided and compromised the main and caused it to leak."
As the leak worsened, the soil washed away and the pipe failed completely, Jones said.