Update: Albert Lea wastewater spill contained, long-term repairs underway

Published 4:41 am Monday, June 24, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The city of Albert Lea has contained a spill of wastewater from a break in the sewer main along South Shore Drive that carries wastewater from Albert Lea to its treatment plant. While the Public Works Department is evaluating long-term repair options, the city advises the public to:

  • Be aware that South Shore Drive is closed until further notice between Rooster Hill Road and County Road 81
  • Avoid swimming and other contact with water in Albert Lea Lake until high water levels recede
  • Stay out of barricaded areas

Albert Lea City Engineer Steven Jahnke said Monday during the Albert Lea City Council work session that the city was made aware of the break from an area farmer. City staff were called in Sunday night and have been working around the clock ever since to build a dam around the area.

Jahnke said the break is in a part of the line that was replaced in 2010, and as of Monday evening, it was not leaking or discharging.

Email newsletter signup

He said they have to wait for the lake levels to come back down before they can investigate further. 

The wastewater main break has no impact on the drinking water system. Also, Albert Lea residents and businesses may continue to discharge wastewater from sinks, toilets, showers, washing machines and other services.

Several streets, trails and parks remain closed in Albert Lea. It may take days for flood waters to recede as stormwater drains through the local chain of lakes. Water levels in Fountain Lake have peaked, but Albert Lea Lake levels are still rising. People should avoid swimming in lakes and streams due to the potential for debris in the water.

The Albert Lea Wastewater Treatment Plant continues to process much more water than average due to stormwater entering the system from residential sump pumps and groundwater seeping into sewer lines. The plant processes an average of 4 million gallons of wastewater a day before discharging the treated wastewater to the Shell Rock River.

However, the plant processed 18-20 million gallons a day on Saturday and Sunday after Albert Lea received more than 3 inches of rain in 48 hours and more than 7 inches in the past week. The plant continues to see significantly higher flows of wastewater.

The city urges property owners with sump pumps to make sure they are discharging to the street or stormwater system, not the wastewater system.