After spill, MSD investigating contractor

On April 30, a malfunctioning pump spewed millions of gallons of raw sewage into the French Broad River. While the problem was repaired the same day, Metropolitan Sewerage District General Manager Tom Hartye tells Xpress it never should have happened in the first place. The contractor, Statesville-based Gilbert Engineering & Construction, failed to follow a contingency plan, he says.

“There was a fail-safe plan discussed at the pre-construction conference with the contractor. He did not follow it. We're investigating why,” Hartye says. The spill “wouldn't have happened if he'd followed the plan.”

He says that MSD crews went around to areas affected by the spill, removed contaminated soil, added lime and covered it with straw and mulch. “Since the spill, we did a battery of tests along the river,” Hartye says. “The river got back to normal somewhere between Wednesday afternoon [May 1] and Thursday morning [May 2].”

Test results released by MSD showed the fecal coliform count at 6,700 parts per 100 milliliters while the spill was passing by, but down to normal ranges soon afterward (320 the following day and 87 by the next day).

The spill “was very unfortunate, because we've spent a lot of money rehabbing our system,” says Hartye, noting significant declines in fecal matter in the water since 2005. “That's what we've been all about, and it's unfortunate this mishap set us back a bit.”

— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or


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