He said the DEQ requested the town take samples for fecal coliform upstream and downstream of the confluence of Beaver Creek and the North Toe. As of Thursday afternoon he was waiting for results to determine when the river would be safe again for humans.

The drinking water intake is about 6 miles upstream from the sewage discharge site, so it did not affect the town’s water supply, Price said.

“They don’t know how long it was leaking before they discovered it,” Price said. “They will most likely will be issued a notice of violation.”

The sewage spill was found “coincidentally” as the town was dealing with the aftermath of a hydrofluoric acid leak into the North Toe on Sunday, from Quartz Corp., a quarry production facility that sits on Altapass Highway and along the river.

The acid is used in the treatment of wastewater effluent, and discharges must meet a water quality standard of pH level between 6-10, Price said.

Price said an alarm sounds when the level drops below 6, indicating an unsafe level of acidity, which occurred Sunday afternoon when a hydrofluoric acid valve malfunctioned.

The low pH wastewater effluent violated their permit limit from 2:30-5:30 p.m.

The discharge killed some 45-50 fish in the North Toe River, where people were swimming and fishing. Creek said the health department did not issue a closure order because she only learned about the discharge on Tuesday, after calls from the public complaining about the dead fish.

Price said the leak was stopped but he doesn’t know how much of the acid seeped into the river. He said the company is required to issue a report within five days of the incident detailing how and why it happened and how cleanup is being addressed. That report is not yet available.

A call to Quartz Corp. Thursday was not immediately returned.

Since 1981 there have been six water quality violations by Quartz Corp., that resulted in fines, according to the DEQ.

On Sept. 11, 2017, the company was found in violation for a bypass of wastewater at the facility of 25,000 gallons and issued a fine of $3,000.

Quartz Corp. has not yet been issued a notice of violation for the Sunday spill, “but they will be,” Price said.

*Original article online at https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/07/19/spruce-pines-north-toe-river-suffers-acid-leak-sewage-spill/800103002/