Sewage spill into Norfolk waterway has been fixed, health officials say. But residents say communication wasn’t clear.

Sewage spill into Norfolk waterway has been fixed, health officials say. But residents say communication wasn’t clear.
·2 min read

A sewage spill on Knitting Mill Creek was fixed but nearby residents are upset about what they say is poor notification and updates from the Virginia Department of Health.

On Sept. 1, a city inspector discovered cloudy water and a smell in the creek along Colonial Place neighborhood, following reports from residents of human waste in the waterway.

Norfolk’s Department of Public Works notified the Virginia Department of Quality, and it was discovered that the sewage discharge was coming from Mack’s Barge restaurant. The city and city’s department of health issued violation notices and the restaurant hired a plumber to fix the problem. Subsequent inspections confirmed no new discharges.

The VDH posted a flyer on a kayak launch near Colonial Place suspending recreational activities and planned to update the community with the Nextdoor app. Residents didn’t think that was enough.

Resident Erik Leach knew something was wrong when he took his dog for a walk a week ago and noticed a goose not moving, even when they got close. He called wildlife management and the goose was picked up on Saturday. At least three others were discovered last weekend by residents — not all were living.

Leach said unaware neighbors were letting their dogs swim in the water, and people continued to fish and crab.

Joe Rieger, deputy director of restoration at the Elizabeth River Project, said the geese may not be sick from the spill. Rieger said it could be a flu or that the geese could have fed on too much bread thrown out by people. However, two dead geese have been sent to Georgia for autopsies.

According to Rieger, the geese collected on Knitting Mill Creek were not the only ones in Hampton Roads to be picked up because of sickness or death this week.

Jason Braswell, manager of Mack’s Barge, said the pipe burst twice. Once in mid-August and a second time on Sept. 1. He said a plumber was on site in less than two hours on Sept. 1 and he is confident it will not burst again.

“We care about the environment and the river,” Braswell said. “We followed any item on the DEQ’s list like removing soil around the area and any cleanup.”

The VDH is working with the DEQ to monitor the condition of the water, which is improving but still considered unsafe for recreational use. The VDH has not released when the river will be re-opened.

Everett Eaton, 262-902-7896, everett.eaton@virginiamedia.com