The leak from the broken sewer line could be much, much larger than previously thought, but officials may never now how much raw sewage leaked into Sandy Creek or how long the leak had been going on
City manager Craig Jones and officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management were surveying the creek bed east from the leak to assess the effects of the leak.
Jones said he was told Wednesday afternoon that about 190,000 gallons had leaked, but that figure could be much higher, even a million gallons, he said Thursday morning.
The leak was first thought to have started Tuesday, but now there are indications that it could have started before that.
Jones said the inflow meter to the wastewater plant was down for repairs and there is no accurate measure of the flow into the ponds at the treatment plant.
"They did notice there was a drop in the inflow," Jones said. "We may never know how much leaked out. It could have been more than a million gallons."
Jones said the sewage flowed down Sandy Creek from a point just east of Highway 119 to near the east end of the runway at the Taft Airport.
The break was discovered Tuesday morning and by 8 p.m. that night crews had put a bypass around the problem area to get the effluent flowing back into the system down to the wastewater treatment plant about a mile east of the break.
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.
The leak will not cost the city anything out of its general fund. The sewer system is covered through a separate fund with its revenues coming from an assessment paid on property tax bills.