Heavy rains cause wastewater overflow into Wisconsin River
BY MIKE WARREN
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – A recent heavy rain event has officials in Wisconsin Rapids looking at their infrastructure for handling such occurrences, and they’re asking city residents to do the same.
On July 15, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the sanitary sewer interceptor was overtaken by rainwater off Second Avenue S., just south of the roundabout. Rainfall was recorded from 3.9 inches to 5.25 inches in that collection area.
“An extreme amount of rain in a little bit of time caused our collection system to be overtaken,” said Derek Budsberg, Wisconsin Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent. “Because it was overtaken, we do have some emergency overflows where the sanitary can exit out to the river, versus backing up many peoples’ basements and houses, and things like that. The level got to where it was bypassing out some overflow gates that we have, and going to the river,” Budsberg added.
Approximately 165,000 gallons of diluted wastewater overflowed from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. into the Wisconsin River. Areas affected would be the Upper Wisconsin River Southern Sub-Basin in Wood County.
“It looks bad either way,” Budsberg said. “You could either do thousands of dollars of property damage if you had it in the system, or you can have these emergency bypass gates where you kind of deal with it after the fact, and go through what we’re going through now with this sanitary sewer overflow report.”
Anyone using the river for recreational activity may be exposed to pathogens, such as E.Coli. “The flow that is going out to the river is very diluted to begin with, so it’s not as strong as regular wastewater would be at that point,” Budsberg added.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant is now working to prevent a re-occurrence by maintaining infrastructure through televising, cleaning, lining, and grouting sewer mains. Furthermore, Budsberg says residents should also ensure that they have properly-installed drain tile, sump pumps, and roof drains that are hooked up to the storm water collection system, and not the sanitary sewer.
“One of the big problems that we have right now in our collection system is illegal sump pump hookups,” notes Budsberg. “A lot of people have sump pumps around here just because of the high water table, and we are finding that there’s a lot of illegal connections in the city,” he adds. “Those sump pumps should be tied into the storm water collection system, and we’re finding that some of them are tied into our sanitary. That is an excessive amount of water we get from that, compared to just the normal flow that you’d use every day showering, laundry, things like that. Those sump pumps can run up to 50 gallons per minute, which can overwhelm our system. So things like that, illegal sump pump hookups, roof drains, things like that that are not tied in properly to the city’s infrastructure is something that people need to be aware of.”
Budsberg notes it is a violation of the city’s ordinance if residents have such cross connections.
“So, we are starting to check for that. We have the equipment to do so,” he says. “Any new construction gets inspected, but there’s a lot of old infrastructure out there that’s basically self-monitored, so a lot of people probably don’t even know. Some people might know, but don’t want to spend the money to get it fixed correctly.”
For additional information regarding this matter, please contact Derek Budsberg, Superintendent, Wisconsin Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant, 2540 1st Street South, Wisconsin Rapids, WI, 54494.
“Even if we got a dozen houses off of our system that way that would save a substantial amount of clear water coming to our plants.”