Sewage spill in Gloucester Township

Big Timber Creek experiences leak of “organic material” due to engine failure at pump station

Big Timber Creek in Gloucester Township experienced a sewage spill Jan. 15 caused by an infrastructure failure at a Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority pump station, according to a release by Camden County.

County Director of Communication Dan Keashen said the spill occurred at approximately 10 a.m. that morning. An investigation is underway to potentially determine how much sewage spilled into the creek, but Keashen said the spill was rectified by approximately 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

“The incident is currently being investigated, but what we do know is that the internal engine experienced an electrical failure,” Keashen said. “A repair was made directly to the engine to fix the infrastructure failure shortly after the spill, and we are currently planning more long-term improvements in order to prevent similar events from happening in the failure.”

In response to the spill, the Camden County Health Department instituted a recreation ban for residents at the creek, meaning fishing, swimming and others recreational activities were prohibited. As of deadline, the ban still was in effect, a period of at least 36 hours.

Following the incident, Keashen said Camden County began to test the oxygen levels within various parts of Big Timber in order to evaluate the effects the “organic material” had after being spilled into the creek.

While recognizing a sewage spill still is something that should be addressed, Keashen said  the release of “organic material” into a waterway poses a significantly smaller threat to the ecosystem and nearby residents than a hypothetical oil spill or chemical leak would.

“This isn’t like an oil spill or a leak with chemical compounds, that will have long-term health effects on either the creek itself, wildlife or residents of the township,” he explained.

Regardless, he said the county health department and the state Department of Environment Protection are working jointly to address the spill and remedy any problems that arise due to the leak. Moving forward, the county said in a release that the incident would not impact public drinking water in any way.

According to a government website that provides information on the Big Timber Creek watershed, the creek flows west through a total of 28 communities, encompassing 62 square miles of land. The north branch, at 10 miles long, drains in urban Camden County,  while the south branch, at 11 miles long, connects with the Delaware River between Westville and Gloucester City.

In total, Big Timber Creek flows downstream into 34 tributaries — such as Almonesson Creek, Holly Run, Otter Brook, Clementon Lake, Blackwood Lake and others — flowing through Deptford, Runnemede, Bellmawr and Brooklyn, amongst other towns.