Thousands of gallons of liquid waste flooded sections of the Binghamton-Johnson City Sewage Treatment Plant when a massive pipe ruptured.
The incident at the facility in the town of Vestal occurred at 5:16 a.m. Friday.
Joint Sewage Board chairman George Kolba said a stainless steel pipe "blew apart" on the west end of the Vestal Road plant.
Kolba said a section of pipe could be seen "flying by" a camera that recorded the incident. He estimated the pipe that failed was about two feet in diameter.
Kolba said there were about five employees working in the sewage treatment facility when the break happened. He said they were not in the area where the problem occurred and did not hear anything unusual.
Kolba said the workers noticed computer screens that indicated things were "being shut down automatically" after the pipe failed.
It will take time before the extent of the damage caused by the rupture can be assessed.
Kolba on Friday morning estimated it could take 24 hours or more before employees can get access to the area where the break occurred. The liquid waste will have to be pumped out of the sections that were filled before the flow was shut down.
For the time being, waste entering the plant is being partially treated before it is discharged into the Susquehanna River. Kolba said the level of treatment was similar to what was done during a massive construction project at the facility.
Kolba said the state Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the mayors of Binghamton and Johnson City were notified of the pipe break.
Plant contractors and engineers also were advised of the issue so they could develop a response plan.
The sewage treatment facility has been plagued with problems in recent years. A large section of a concrete wall on the west side of the plant collapse in May 2011, causing a major spill of sewage into the nearby river.
The facility also sustained millions of dollars in damage as the result of flooding in September 2011.
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