Sewage Leak Affecting Winton Woods' Lake, Investigation Underway

Jun 3, 2019

This story was updated to reflect comments from the Metropolitan Sewer District and Ohio EPA.

Winton Lake at Winton Woods is closed to fishing and boating as Great Parks of Hamilton County and the Metropolitan Sewer District investigate a sewage overflow.

Great Parks reports that around 12:30 p.m. Monday someone reported smelling an odor on the north side of Winton Lake.

"Rangers investigated the report, followed the odor and discovered the water in the retention pond adjacent to the lake was discolored," Great Parks says on social media.

The source was a sewage overflow just north of the lake, according to Jennifer Sivak, director of marketing and public engagement with Great Parks of Hamilton County.

"We contacted MSD who confirmed that there was a sewage leak, actually an overflowing manhole that traveled down [from the direction of] Greenhills and into a retention pond going into Winton Lake."

A pipe carries water from the contaminated retention pond toward Winton Lake at Winton Woods.
Credit Courtesy of Great Parks

The lake was immediately closed to recreation and officials from MSD are investigating. Ohio EPA was also contacted.

In a statement, MSD says:

"MSD has mobilized an emergency crew to flush/vacuum out the sewer line, as the overflow is likely due to a physical obstruction in the downstream sewer line such as tree roots or grease. MSD will then follow protocol to clean up and monitor the area to protect public health and the environment. This includes washing and disinfecting the impacted ground."

Men consider how to block water in the retention pond from accessing Winton Lake Monday evening.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

It's unclear when the sewer began backing up or how long it has been going on. Despite some conflicting reports from Great Parks and MSD that the overflow was contained, the sewer was still overflowing as late as 9 p.m. Monday.

MSD is coordinating with the Ohio EPA. An Ohio EPA spokesman tells WVXU the agency is providing "technical support" to help contain the release.

MSD also says "Ohio EPA will determine whether mitigation of the lake is needed." The Ohio EPA spokesman wouldn't comment on that.

MSD was expected to work well into the night flushing and vacuuming the sewer line and pumping out the retention pond.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The retention pond is situated next to the basketball courts across from the Winton Woods harbor area and is connected to Winton Lake. Crews began pumping water out of the retention pond and into a downstream sewer Monday evening.

Sivak says the odor is slight. Also, it shouldn't affect drinking water. Greater Cincinnati Water Works' Water Quality and Treatment Division tells WVXU "this will not impact either of our drinking water treatment plant sources."

A dark area of discolored water shows in Winton Lake where the pipe from the retention pond feeds into the lake.
Credit Courtesy of Great Parks

This isn't the first environment hazard for Great Parks. On March 17, 2014, an oil pipeline operated by a Sunoco subsidiary burst, sending 20,000 gallons of oil down a hillside stream at Oak Glen Nature Preserve in Colerain Township. The cleanup and remediation lasted several years. Restoration is nearly complete, but the site looks nothing like it once did.