Sewage spills in three places: Grease, paper towels to blame, district says |

Sewage spills in three places: Grease, paper towels to blame, district says

Grease and disposable cleaning towels clogged three sewer mains and caused them to spill sewage over the weekend into two roads and a home, according to the South Tahoe Public Utility District.

On Friday at 3 p.m., grease caused a main on Aspenwald Road in South Lake Tahoe to back up. The blockage caused sewage to overflow into the bathroom of a home on Aspenwald.

The district has paid for a motel room for the home occupants who are affected by the sewage. The residents can stay at the motel until the sewage site is clean and disinfected, said Paul Sciuto, assistant manager for the district.

Another spill reported on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. involved 250 to 300 gallons of sewage spilling onto Forest Avenue, also in South Lake Tahoe. The district used a machine it calls a “camel” to vacuum the sewage. The sewer main got clogged because the cleaning towels were flushed down a toilet.

The towels, which are similar to paper towels but designed to be reused, are biodegradable and promoted as something a homeowner can flush, but they should not be flushed, because they clog sewer pipes. The towels only degrade once they reach a landfill, Sciuto said.

On Sunday at 11:55 a.m. on Eloise Avenue, between Third Street and Tahoe Keys Boulevard, 400 to 500 gallons of sewage flowed out of a manhole and into a storm drain. The sewage was vacuumed up before it reached any soil, according to the district.

Grease, which builds up within a sewer main after a homeowner or restaurant pours grease down a drain, caused the blockage, Sciuto said.

Having three sewage releases in three days is unusual, but according to the district, routine maintenance had been done on the three sewer mains that became clogged.

“Personally I can’t point to our maintenance crews and say they are not keeping up,” Sciuto said. “Maybe the district should do better public education about grease and those towelette things.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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