News Release 121

Sewage overflow in Rockaway Beach reaches Lake Taneycomo

Volume 38-121 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Larry Archer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO., MARCH 16, 2010 – An equipment failure at a Rockaway Beach wastewater treatment facility Monday night resulted in the release of an estimated 3,000-5,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater into an unnamed tributary of Lake Taneycomo, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Officials with the Rockaway Beach wastewater treatment facility notified the department this morning that a blown fuse at the facility caused its pumps stall, allowing the wastewater to enter an unnamed tributary of Lake Taneycomo and then to back waters of the lake itself.

The fuse blew between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Plant officials reported that at least one pump was running again by 10 p.m. and the overflow was stopped. City staff are now pumping waste back out of the tributary, cleaning up the affected area and treating the area with lime.  

The department dispatched investigators from its Southwest Regional Office in Springfield to Rockaway Beach this morning to assess the environmental damage and to sample the affected waterways. They will return to the site on Wednesday to verify the cleanup.

The department considers discharges of wastewater from sanitary sewer collection systems to be threats to public health and the environment. Such discharges can contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems.

Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by obstructions in sewer lines, such as in this case, mechanical failure, infiltration of rainwater and snow melt into aging systems or undersized systems that cannot compensation for sudden increases in wastewater.

Communities across Missouri produce millions of gallons of wastewater that must be properly transported and treated before being released to waterways. However, some communities are facing challenges in accomplishing this.

In order to protect public health and the environment, the department requires communities to take appropriate action to eliminate their sanitary sewer overflow issues. To do this, communities should develop a system to track information about such incidents, including the date, time, location and size of the overflow, weather data, who notified them, when they notified the department and the measures taken to respond. The community can then use this data to aid in developing a plan to inspect the collection system, and plan and finance system upgrades.

For more information on sanitary sewer overflows or other water quality issues, contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program at 573-751-1300 or 800-361-4827 or visit the department website at

To report an environmental emergency, including sewage overflows, please contact the DNR spill line at 573-634-2436. For more information contact the department at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-3443, or visit the department's Web page at