Raw sewage dumped into Missouri River; concerned officials push for testing

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 6:51 PM CST
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Wednesday marks 300 days since Plattsmouth's wastewater treatment plant has been out of commission due to the flood. Since then, it has been dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Missouri River.

According to the town’s city supervisor Erv Portis, one million gallons of untreated sewage has been flowing into the river every day, since the plant went offline on March 14; meaning 300 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped so far and it’s not ending anytime soon.

The state has been working with the town to get the plant back up and running, but that's still at least five months away.

“Even if they're doing their best, the level of pollution going into that river is alarming,” said John Rumpler, he is the Clean Water Program Director at Environment America.

“Unquestionably we should be testing the water downstream and working as quickly as possible to end this pollution at the source,” said Rumpler.

6 News made dozens of phone calls and was passed from one agency to the next, trying to get an answer: .is anyone taking extra measures to test the Missouri?

Eventually, we received an answer in an email from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, reading in part: “No. We have not changed our sampling related to this specific situation.”

“This is public health matter as pathogens in sewage can make people sick,” said Rumpler. “Whether that is people swimming in the Missouri River, fishing in the Missouri River, people coming into contact in other ways, we simply don't have the data if the water isn't tested.”

The Department of Environment and Energy said they have a couple of sampling sites downstream including at Nebraska City, which is about 25 miles south. But the department said the water would be too diluted that far downstream to show any impact.

At this point, unless changes are made to the way the Missouri River is tested we may never know the true impact of hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage being poured into one of the country’s largest rivers.

It’s important to note, the town of Plattsmouth has the go-ahead to bypass its wastewater treatment plant. According to the Department of Environment and Energy, state rules and regulations allow for emergency discharge when discharges are unavoidable.