Sewer line 'geyser' capped

A Watchdog reader said a pipe behind a building on Riverwalk Drive in North Charleston occasionally would shoot out a geyser of what appeared to be raw sewage. The pipe was capped.

A Watchdog reader recently reported seeing a "geyser" of what appeared to be raw sewage erupting occasionally from a pipe near a North Charleston industrial park into ditches near the Ashley River.

The pipe is behind a small utility building on Riverwalk Drive, a lane leading to the Plantation Isle subdivision off Leeds Avenue. A sign on the door says: "Caution: Black rat snakes under your feet."

No geyser or particularly nasty smell was observed Tuesday afternoon, though white paper-like material surrounded the pipe in a muddy mound. Ferns and other plants surrounded the area and seemed to be growing well.

Watchdog contacted Harvey Wilkins, water program manager with the local state Department of Health and Environmental Control office. Wilkins was at the scene within an hour.

He and officials at the North Charleston Sewer Department determined that the pipe handled sewage from a building at Leeds International manufacturing complex.

They contacted officials at the industrial park who said a cap from a cleanout pipe had been unscrewed, and that crews bought a new cap and fixed the problem within an hour and a half. The valve technically was off the industrial park's property, but since the stuff was being piped from the complex, they decided to fix the problem. There was no discharge of sewage, an official said.

It was unclear how long the pipe had been open. The Watchdog reader said it had been discharging fluids for a year or so. Wilkins said pumps from the industrial park send the sewage to the North Charleston Sewer District's gravity-fed lines, and that sewage would be in that pipe only when those pumps were running.