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42M-gallon sewage spill raises health concern

January 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Crews have plugged a leak that spewed an estimated 42 million gallons of raw sewage into a river in the Apple Valley area after December's heavy storms damaged the sewage line.But it may be several months to a year before the main sewage line serving the high desert is back online.

"What it did was shift our pipes that are lying in the Mojave River such that they began taking in sand and river water and then displacing sewage downstream," said Logan Olds with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.

Crews with the VVWRA have been working nonstop to install two bypass pipelines, one in Victorville and another in Apple Valley.

The situation has some residents concerned about their water supply.

Doug Osborne's ostrich farm sits along the river. His well is one of 39 private wells at risk for contamination.

Despite clearance from officials who tested his well for fecal bacteria, Osborne isn't convinced.

"I don't think chlorine should be part of this test," he said. "It's going to kind of skew your test."

Amanda Jasso and her family, who live just down the road, rely on their well for drinking water.

"I think the water is contaminated because it has a color and smells bad," Jaso said in Spanish.

Crews stopped the leak, but must begin repairing the damage.

It has cost $3 million so far to bypass the sewage lines, but a more permanent solution could end up costing between $6 million and $20 million.