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Winton Lake Re-Opens, But Sewage Spill Emblematic Of Bigger Problem, CUFA Says

Tana Weingartner
The retention pond near the lake at Winton Woods is being filled with fresh water after the contaminated water was removed.

Updated June 8 at 9 a.m.

Winton Lake at Winton Woods is now open to recreation, including boating and fishing.

"As cleanup efforts wind down, isolated portions of the lake may be closed temporarily through next week," Great Parks says in a statement. "Guests should obey posted signs."

Earlier this week, the Metropolitan Sewer District said it's cleaned up a second sewage spill in Winton Woods, remedied the site of the first spill, and continues to flush a contaminated retention pond.

Sewage was discovered Monday overflowing from two manholes into the pond and, from there, into Winton Lake. A blocked sewer line was to blame.

Communities United for Action (CUFA) has long advocated for external oversight of MSD's multi-billion dollar, federally-mandated sewer system overhaul - portions of which are supposed to fix sewer backups and overflows.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Members of CUFA have long advocated for changes and outside audits of MSD's sewer backup program.

Deborah Madaris is fed up.

"It's my understanding that MSD is getting billions of dollars to take care of this and we're doing what? Closing the park? Come on," she says. "The next thing it will be in our houses. It's already been in our houses, it's going to be some more. What are they doing?"

CUFA says sewer rates continue to go up while they feel little is being done to address sewer overflows in some of the hardest hit communities.

Wanda Ball says sewer overflows happen way too often.

"In 2017, there were sewer backups in our homes and in our streets," she says. "Now we have sewer backups in our recreation areas where our children play."

Sewer overflows have and continue to plague the district. CUFA held a news conference at Winton Woods Wednesday.

"We are here to say 'enough is enough,' " Ball said. "There are things that we have asked of MSD and we want MSD to act like the public utility that they are."

An obstruction comprised of tree roots, grease and wet wipes caused the sewer to overflow. The sewer line was last inspected in August 2015, MSD reports. It was scheduled to be cleaned and lined this year.

That's not good enough for Ball.

"Four years is adequate enough when we already know that we have a problem with our sewers?" she asks. "The problem with our sewers is not new, they've known about the problem with our sewers. ... Yeah, it may have been four years, but I'm saying four years may not be enough."

Credit Courtesy of Great Parks of Hamilton County
An image from Tuesday, June 4, 2019, shows the second overflowing manhole discovered near Sharon Road and Lakeview Drive in Winton Woods. This leak, though smaller than the other, spilled in to the stream below, turning the normally brown water into shades of blue and green.

Winton Woods is open, but until Saturday, June 8, the lake remained closed to fishing and boating. WVXU was initially told water quality test results from Wednesday showed E. coli levels above acceptable levels at the spot where the pond feeds into Winton Lake. MSD said results from the other side of the lake near the dam are within acceptable levels.

MSD told WVXU Thursday morning that the information about the E. coli levels was incorrect. It now says all levels in the lake are within acceptable levels. The higher finding came from a sample taken in the creek where the second overflow occurred.

More testing and monitoring is planned.

MSD spokeswoman Deb Leonard says the site of a second sewage spill has been cleaned. It appears to have been much smaller than the first one identified this week. MSD and Great Parks both agree the spill, which impacted a stream, likely did not reach Winton Lake.

The spill area around the two manholes found overflowing Monday into a retention pond have been cleaned, disinfected and seeded, according to Leonard.

The retention pond was drained as low as MSD says its crew could, and water is being pumped in to flush it. MSD tells WVXU this means the pond will be filled and aerated and allowed to right itself.

This story was first published on June 5, 2019. It has been updated several times.