Area beaches are closed after two million gallons of sewage spilled into the Mill River in Hamden on Monday. New Haven officials say they weren’t fully briefed on what was happening.
“I think the issue was we were notified about a small leak, and not notified about the extent of the problem,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Officials from the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority say a pipe collapsed on Whitney Avenue in Hamden, and sewage spilled out onto the street.
Gary Zrelak, director of operations for GNHWPCA, says they were required to report the incident and repairs to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“Within two hours we have to report that this is occurring, and so we did that,” said Zrelak, who added a DEEP officer arrived on scene.
He says they were working with Hamden officials as well to fix the problem.
“We were in a lot of communication because we had to get with police, get with the engineer in Hamden, because we were in Hamden working that spill so that’s where all the activity took place.”
That’s also where communication got lost.
“I talked with Gary at length last night about how we can improve communication so we can address these issues and notify our residents very quickly when there’s a problem like this in the future,” said Elicker.
New Haven residents were sent robocalls following the updated details of the spill.
In a statement DEEP says they didn’t see solid waste and they don’t recommend using chlorine. Potential for bacterial impacts typically goes away after 48 hours.
They also say they didn’t find fish kill during their monitoring that wrapped up Tuesday, but NBC Connecticut observed a number of dead fish in Mill River in New Haven. City officials say it could be from lack of oxygen due to bacteria.
Health officials warn people to stay out of the water.
“No one should be at all in the water in the Mill River, however in the lighthouse sound is where we posted our signs for no swimming,” said Maritza Bond, director of the New Haven Department of Health.
Beaches in Branford and East and West Haven are also closed, disappointing some beachgoers.
“If you can’t get into the water, what’s the point of going to the beach,” said Franco Cavallaro of East Haven. “I can’t believe that it happened, especially the fresh water going into the sea water it’s just, it’s shocking.”
Tests are underway in several towns. New Haven adding to its regular weekly testing.
“We will add testing days Monday and Wednesday so we can ensure that into the weekend the water will be safe,” said Bond.