A new main circuit breaker was to be installed on the main electrical panel of Cambria’s sewage-treatment plant Monday night after an old one blew out Saturday evening, triggering a plant-wide power outage that caused between 10,000 and 14,000 gallons of sewage to spill into a lower branch of Santa Rosa Creek.
The county Public Health Department advises avoiding the waters of Santa Rosa Creek and the ocean at Moonstone Beach Park for at least 72 hours after the spill, because coming into contact with or ingesting contaminated waters could be hazardous.
A cascading series of problems caused the spill, according to Mike Finnigan, the Cambria Community Services District’s superintendent of wastewater operations.
Finnigan said in his report to district General Manager Jerry Gruber that the malfunctioning power-breaker incident included the following problems: pumps underwater at an influent pump station, a main plant gate that wouldn’t open, the plant itself without power, a generator in “fault mode,” and a bad backup battery on the alarm system that notifies staff of problems.
With the alarm system not working, the district learned of the problem only when a concerned citizen called the after-hours answering service about liquid spilling from a manhole on Winsor Drive.