Sewage line break pumping untreated water into the Ashley River (updated x3)

Image by Still image by Flickr user baritoneuk; Map byGoogle Maps

Update February 24 afternoon: Live 5 News snapped a pic of the broken pipe -- it's 5 feet underground. See the image here.

Update February 24: According to a report by The Post and Courier the spill may be as much as 20 times more than first thought -- that's some 200,000 gallons of raw sewage.

Check out their report here.

I also just stumbled on a video report at Live 5 News that also says 200,000 gallons and has additional info about the pipe that broke; see it here.

First reporting: Due to a sewer line break at the Charleston Air Force Base late last night, state health officials are advising everyone against fishing and crabbing on the Ashley River five miles above the vicinity of Hunley Park in North Charleston.

The Post and Courier broke the news initially, and now the Charleston Waterkeeper has issued a statement on the spill that is pouring between 6,000-10,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the river every hour.

Here's the full text of that release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 22, 2010

North Charleston, SC -- According to state agencies and the North Charleston Sewer District, the North Charleston wastewater treatment plant, located on the Charleston Air Force Base, has experienced a significant sewage spill.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control says that 6,000 - 10,000 gallons of raw, untreated sewage has been discharging into the Ashley River since 4:30pm on Sunday, February 21, 2010. 

Apparently, the wastewater treatment plant has agreed to install a diversion line into their facility, but, according to an internal email sent to staff at the Department of Natural Resources, "this will take some time." Scientists and other field staff have been encouraged to stay away from the spill site and are ordered to withhold from sampling or testing in that area until further notice.

According to Cyrus Buffum, Executive Director of Charleston Waterkeeper, "Raw sewage can significantly impact both human and aquatic health, and can often times lead to mass fish kills and significantly contaminated water supplies." 

Charleston Waterkeeper strives to protect the public's right to clean water by defending Charleston's waterways from pollution.

As a citizen based organization, Charleston Waterkeeper recommends that the following measure be taken. First, we ask that state and federal agencies hold the North Charleston Sewer District accountable and responsible for the sewage spill. We ask that measures be taken to address the current spill and the impact it has had, and also ask that all local wastewater treatment plants be ordered to do a complete quality analysis on the condition and effectiveness of their existing infrastructure. In addition, though not required by law, we demand that municipalities and private operators of wastewater treatment plants notify the public immediately whenever such a spill or incident occurs. Such transparency will build the public's trust in such utilities. All wastewater treatment plants play an integral role in protecting the public's health and right to clean water. We need to assure that the public is informed whenever their health and rights are threatened.

Charleston Waterkeeper will be updating as more information is received.