The public wasn't told about a 3.5 million gallon sewage spill into the Haw River as quickly as the law requires because North Carolina environmental officials wanted to wait until the leak was stopped before it was disclosed.
Burlington officials said sewage that spilled from a broken pipe at a municipal wastewater treatment plant reached the river Monday night and was not stopped until Wednesday afternoon. Public notice of the spill was not issued until Thursday, nearly four days after the leak was identified.
State law requires water systems to report any spill of more than 1,000 gallons of untreated wastewater to media outlets in the affected within 48 hours of sewage reaching a river, stream or lake.
N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokeswoman Susan Massengale said the agency told the City of Burlington it could delay the required disclosure beyond the 48 hours mandated by law.