BREMERTON – A sewage spill at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard over the weekend prompted the county’s public health board to warn residents about coming into contact with the waters of the Sinclair Inlet.
The spill occurred between Saturday, March 2, and Sunday, March 3, according to the Navy. Around 4,000 of domestic wastewater containing raw sewage were spilled, according to an initial report from the Kitsap Public Health District. A later statement from the Navy reported “less than 4,000 gallons” spilled.
Jim Zimny, an assistant director for the Kitsap Public Health District, said the weekend’s spill met the threshold for notifying the public of a health risk.
“We know we have a significant amount of sewage that could hold pathogens,” he said.
Zimny advised boaters and beach-goers against coming into contact with the waters of the inlet, and reaffirmed an advisory against harvesting shellfish in the area. There is already a standing pollution warning for the inlet – which has closed the area to shellfish harvesting – but Zimny said some people ignore it.
“We want to make sure they pay more due diligence regarding this particular incident,” he said.
The no-contact advisory was issued on Tuesday morning by the KPHD and it will remain in effect through Sunday, March 10. The affected area is the entirety of the Sinclair Inlet up through the head of Port Washington Narrows, from Gorst to Lions Park in East Bremerton.
In a statement, Navy spokesperson J.C. Mathews attributed the spill to a broken pressure sensor on Saturday that caused a leak of what was thought to be seawater. The spill was mistakenly diverted into the inlet.
“Less than 4,000 gallons of domestic wastewater spilled into Sinclair Inlet between 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday when a pressure sensor broke off a water line at Dry Dock 6 in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington,” Mathews wrote.
“The spill lasted for slightly more than 24 hours because the mechanic who initially responded to the broken pressure sensor on Saturday believed the leak was from a normal saltwater line and diverted the spill into a dry dock service galley which pumped into Sinclair Inlet.
“On Sunday, shipyard personnel discovered that the leak did not originate from a saltwater line and could contain wastewater. Out of an abundance of caution, they shut down the pump to contain the spill. The following morning (Monday), shipyard personnel confirmed that the spill had contained wastewater that back-flowed into the line due to a loss of pressure.
“PSNS & IMF takes its responsibility to protect the environment very seriously and will conduct a full investigation into the cause of the spill and the steps taken once it was discovered,” Mathews wrote.
More information can be found on the Kitsap Public Health District website.