Raw sewage is being pumped into the ocean at Faxaskjól on the west side of Reykjavík at a rate of 750 liters per second, RÚV reports. The sewage pump at this location is broken and has been for ten days, making this the longest and most serious sewage system failure since its inception. Repairs are underway, but it is unclear when they will be completed.
Damage to the emergency hatch lead to sewage from a large number of homes in the capital area draining, untreated, into the sea. When the system works correctly, sewage at this location is taken from the greater part of three Reykjavík neighborhoods, as well as the nearby towns of Garðabær and Kópavogur, and then pumped to a treatment facility on the west side of town. From there, treated sewage is pumped 4km [2.5 miles] out into the ocean at a depth of 30 meters [98 feet].
Sewage services in the capital area are managed by the public utilities company Reykjavík Energy. “Our team has been working under difficult conditions to fix this. It’s gone slower than we anticipated but we are hopeful that it’s close to being done,” said Hólmfríður Sigurðardóttir, the environmental manager of the company. “It’s not a good situation at all. We thought it was the lesser of two evils to keep the hatch open so that there would not be a possibility that the sewage would back up in the system and flood into people’s homes. Because there would have been a chance of that.”
“As a parent, I would not take my kids to the shore where there are E. coli bacteria,” she continued. “These cleaning and pumping stations are the most significant environmental improvements that have been made in the capital area in recent years.”
An environmental sample taken by the Reykjavík Health and Sanitation Department in June did not give cause for concern, but a new sample will be taken today to reassess the situation. “What we’re most concerned about is that E. coli found in sewage can be pathogenic,” explains health inspector Svava Steinarsdóttir. “The levels from the samples that were taken in June were under the limits imposed on nature baths, so there was no reason to be concerned about people’s health as the situation stood. But if a lot of waste has settled on the shore, then we’ll have cause to clean it up.”