Riverkeeper keeping an eye on Aurora sewage issue

A ditch in the Town of Aurora was filled with foul-smelling, murky water the week of Christmas, pointing to a larger problem of a sewage spill.

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Jill Howell continues to keep up with the ongoing sewage spills in the town of Aurora.

“The (Aurora) Department of Public Works is onboard and willing to fix the issues out there, but Aurora is a low-resource area, and there seem to be issues with its infrastructure,” Jill said.

A concerned Aurora resident first notified Jill of potential sewage spills in early December, and has since made several visits to the areas of concern.

“DEQ had been contacted and went out before I was contacted, but found nothing,” she said.

But a site visit during the week of Christmas turned up absolute proof: a ditch filled with murky water and reeking of raw sewage.

“I found really high E. coli levels. There was clearly an active spill happening — it was clear that sewage was ending up in a ditch, which was ending up in a creek, then a channel that led directly into South Creek,” Jill said.

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality was again notified and after its own site visit, confirmed it was a sewer spill. DEQ is now working with the Town of Aurora to resolve the issues and is issuing of a Notice of Deficiency to the town. A Notice of Deficiency is issued for “Tier 1” violations, meaning “minor violations resulting in little or no harm to the environment or public health” that are not committed willfully or intentionally.

Jill said DEQ is completing a report on the Aurora issues.

Jill said one positive aspect to come out of this is good communication between her, the town and DEQ.

“Now we have a good chain of information sharing,” she said.

(The photo at the top of the page shows IDEXX trays lit beneath a blacklight, an indicator of the extremely high level of E. coli found in water samples taken in Aurora.)