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One possible response to Iceland's sewage problem. Image: Caddyshack screenshot

One possible response to Iceland’s sewage problem. Image: Caddyshack screenshot

The Inertia

A broken sewage pump in Reykjavík, Iceland has been spewing an incredible amount of raw sewage directly into the ocean for over a week.

In recent years, surf exploration has moved farther afield. As wetsuit technology got better, so too did our ability to surf waves that would have previously been unsurfable. Now, surfing’s tentacles have reached around the globe, and cold-water spots have become a new haven for surfers looking to escape the crowds. Iceland, in particular, has become a strange little corner for the occasional surf traveler looking for a place without swaying palms and white sandy beaches. Reykjavík, a city on the northwest coast, was named one of the 10 best cities for surfers by Stab five years ago. Now, though, it’s pumping raw sewage directly into the ocean at the alarming rate of 750 liters (almost 200 gallons) a second.

According to Iceland Review, a sewage pump on the west side of Reykjavík has been broken for 11 days, and while attempts at repairs are being made, so far they haven’t been successful. On a normal day, the pump takes the raw sewage from most of Reykjavík, Garðabær, and Kópavogur and directs it into a treatment facility. After it’s been cleaned up a bit, it’s pumped nearly three miles out to sea.

While it’s not exactly clear what happened to the pump, the raw sewage is gushing from a damaged emergency hatch. “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 Reykjavík Energy, said. “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.”


Water tests are scheduled to find out just how bad things are, but with 200 gallons of shit flowing into the ocean every second for 11 days straight, surfers inReykjavík might want to stay out of the water for a while.

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