It took only 35 minutes for approximately 860,000 litres of raw sewage to spill into the Grand River early Monday morning.

Officials say the spill was caused by a malfunction at a pumping station on Denholm Street, near Bridge Street and Lexington Road in Waterloo.

The spill began around 5:15 a.m., following a power failure, and sewage continued to pour into a creek that feeds the river until a failed transfer switch was repaired around 5:50 a.m.

“The transfer switch only transferred partway … which put the station out of control totally,” says Bill Garibaldi, Waterloo’s deputy commissioner of public works.

“Our pumps weren’t working and all of the sanitary sewage that is coming into this station was essentially rising.”

After learning of the spill, Region of Waterloo officials closed the Mannheim water intake for two hours to allow the sewage to bypass the region’s water supply.

Eight hundred and sixty thousand litres is equivalent to 860 cubic metres.

“To give a sense of scale, 860 cubic metres does sound like a lot of water – but the Grand River today is flowing at 80 cubic metres per second,” says Thomas Schmidt, the region’s commissioner of transportation and environmental services.

The sewage passed through Kitchener on Monday afternoon and is expected to hit Brantford on Tuesday morning.

Because the sewage dilutes as it travels down the river, Brantford water officials will close that city’s intake for six hours as the spill passes by – with the city’s reservoir levels high enough to handle up to one day of disruption.

“You will see a lot of dilution before anything gets to Brantford, but they are taking the right steps in closing the intake,” says Schmidt.

Raw sewage also leaked into two homes directly beside the pumping station, with homeowners telling CTV News they received about two inches of water in their basements.

The Ministry of the Environment’s Spills Action Centre was notified of the spill.