Thousands of gallons of sewage were released into waterways the past few days as the result of broken pipes and sewage systems overwhelmed by rapidly melting snow. The main sewage line leading into the Ottumwa plant broke Sunday, causing a bypass of sewage. Department of Natural Resources spokesman, Kevin Baskins, says workers put on a temporary patch, and then a full fix.
Baskins says as of Tuesday afternoon, they were able to fix the pipe and 100% of the flow was going back into the plant, and the bypass into the Des Moines River has stopped. Baskins says in this case the weather conditions helped alleviate any environmental problems.
Baskins says all the snowmelt from the warm weekend help raise the Des Moines River and dilute the sewage that was bypassed. He says the return of cold temperatures then stopped the snowmelt and allowed workers to get in and make repairs to the pipe. Other cities, such as Cedar Rapids and Dubuque had bypasses due to the melting snow.
Baskins says anytime there’s rapid water movement it can overload the system. Baskins says the systems have to bypass the extra fluid, or face the potential of sewer backups into people’s basements. The City of Dubuque report some 6,000 gallons of sewage was bypassed, while Cedar Rapids reported nearly 200,000 gallons due to overtaxed systems.
Baskins says the freezing and thawing that’s taken a toll on streets, also impacts sewage pipes. He says some of the systems have pipes that date back to the 1800’s and the natural freezing and thawing process can cause problems. Baskins says the D.N.R. has been taking water samples to keep up with the potential environmental impact of sewage bypasses. He says they also continue working with cities to help them upgrade their sewage systems.