News Release 224

Tree roots cause wastewater release in Lee’s Summit

Between 500-1,000 gallons of sewage escape to Little Blue River tributary

Volume 38-224 (For Immediate Release)
Contact:  Larry Archer

JEFFERSON CITY, MO., APRIL 14, 2010 – A root ball that caused the failure of a gasket in a Lee’s Summit wastewater line resulted in the release of an estimated 500-1,000 gallons of sewage into a tributary of the Little Blue River Tuesday, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The release, which occurred south of the 200 block of Northwest Ward Road, was discovered shortly before 10:30 Tuesday morning and was stopped by 11:30 a.m.

Bacterial growth discovered during the investigation of the release indicates that the release could have been ongoing for some time prior to its discovery, but the exact duration is not known. The release was discovered after erosion of the creek’s banks exposed the pipe.

The city has pumped approximately 6,000 gallons of water from the creek back into the wastewater system in order to catch water that had been contaminated by the release.

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

Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by ruptured sewer lines, such as in this case, obstructions in sewer lines, mechanical failure, infiltration of rainwater and snow melt into aging systems or undersized systems that cannot compensate 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