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Heavy rains cause massive sewage overflows in south county Separate overflows on Friday and Monday dumped sewage into the Western Branch of the Patuxent River and Broad Creek after heavy rains strained pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants, according to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The area got soaked with 3.54 inches of rain last Thursday and Friday, and another 3.95 inches Sunday and Monday, according to National Weather Service measurements at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the closest weather station to southern Prince George County. pumps have a certain capacity, and when you have heavy flooding and heavy rainfall like we have had, it overwhelms the capacity, WSSC spokesman John C. White said. Between 10 million and 15 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Western Branch from the Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant in Upper Marlboro during Monday rainstorm, White said. Friday storm resulted in an overflow at the facility that WSSC officials said exceeded 1 million gallons. The Western Branch plant is designed to handle a regular daily flow of 30 million gallons, with a maximum of 60 million gallons, White said. But last week storms flooded the system with about 90 million gallons of sewage. In Fort Washington, at least 4 million gallons were dumped into Broad Creek from overflows at the Broad Creek Pumping Station on Friday and Monday, according to the WSSC. System operators are required to notify the public and undergo cleanup efforts after sewage overflows, which are illegal under the federal Clean Water Act. White said WSSC workers put up signs in the areas where overflows occurred, notified county and state officials, and took other cleanup measures. Each of the three Friday spills began in the morning and lasted between eight and 15 hours, according to the WSSC. Overflows resulting from Monday storm lasted anywhere from a few hours to about 46 hours at the Western Branch facility. The WSSC also reported overflows Monday of about 10,000 gallons from the Anacostia No. 2 Wastewater Pumping Station in Capitol Heights. Other overflows connected with Monday rain were reported at the Piscataway Wastewater Treatment Plant in Accokeek, where 1.2 million gallons spilled, and at pumping stations in Fort Washington. Environmentalists said overflows in area waterways are a recurring problem and pose a danger to human and ecological health. The overflows were described by the WSSC in news releases as wastewater because it was a mixture of sewage and large amounts of rainwater. But Kelly Canavan, president of the Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Council, said such overflows nevertheless contain harmful bacteria, chemicals and trash. still not something you want to be hanging out in, she said. say it diluted by rainfall is very misleading. It doesn mean it any less dangerous. Riverkeeper Fred Tutman, whose nonprofit group addresses environmental issues related to the Patuxent River, said the Western Branch facility has had numerous overflows in recent years. Branch is a frequent violator. It even outflows when we don have storm events, Tutman said. The WSSC entered a consent decree in 2005 that requires the utility to spend million over 12 years on eliminating overflows by upgrading aging pipes and clearing out blockages. Blockages in pipes, caused by grease, trash, tree roots and other debris, are a major reason for sewage overflows. addition to working on the consent decree inspection and cleaning program, we also have public outreach programs to educate the public on the environmental impacts and prevention of overflows, said James Neustadt, director of communications and community relations for WSSC. Programs include encouraging area residents not to dump grease down the drain and making sure food service establishments are properly disposing of their grease, Neustadt said. Earlier this year, the WSSC reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment that a Feb. 10 power outage led to a 4.6 million gallon sewage spill in Broad Creek, according to MDE data.