The Village of Fort Simpson has received permission from the N.W.T. government to release partially-treated sewage into the Mackenzie River, after a fuel spill shut down the community's sewage treatment plant.

The waste will be treated using chemicals that pack the solids together to be broken down and the liquid will be released into the river. The liquid could include some of the fuel that wasn't cleaned up.

Sewage backup Fort Simpson

The fuel leak into the waste water treatment plant in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. has killed the waste-eating bacteria in the plant. The water in this bottle should be clear. Sewage will back up in three hours if officials don't find a solution. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Around 3 p.m. Wednesday, workers at the village's sewage treatment plant noticed the fuel spill. It was coming from an abandoned home nearby, where a 250-litre fuel tank had leaked under the floor of the building.

The leak then spread to the sewage treatment plant, killing the bacteria that break down the waste, forcing officials to shut down the plant. 

Village officials say if they're not able to drain the sewage water into the MacKenize River, it will pile up and back up into homes and businesses in the community.

It could take about six weeks until they can regrow the bacteria that break down the waste.