Storm overwhelmes Albert City system; 200,000 gallons spilled
About 200,000 gallons of wastewater roared into the Raccoon River after Albert City received nearly four inches of rainfall in less than an hour over the weekend. The rush of water overwhelmed the Albert City wastewater system, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The city bypassed the polluted water from 10:30 p.m. Sunday to about 3:30 a.m. Monday, pumping wastewater out of the collection system to avoid flooding basements. The wastewater was pumped onto the ground; then flowed into a drainage ditch that routed the water directly into the river.
The environmental impact was not immediately known.
Several cities in Iowa experienced bypasses during the storms.
"Aging or poorly maintained sanitary sewer systems are particularly vulnerable to influxes of storm water. With sewage pipes overwhelmed, excess water has nowhere to go," DNR officials said Monday.
The wastewater can't be allowed to back up into basements, for fear of contamination and health risks, they said.
"These types of situations can occur when large amounts of rainwater or snowmelt enter a sanitary sewer from cracks in sewer pipes," the DNR officials said. "Sewer system upgrades can fix cracked pipes and minimize storm water entering the sanitary sewer system. However, like other infrastructure upgrades, repairs are costly and often take years to complete."
Storm runoff can also enter the sanitary sewer through improper connections, such as roof drains or sump pumps hooked up to the sanitary sewer system instead of the storm water system.
"Communities need to check for sources of storm water getting into the system, and work with homes and businesses to disconnect storm water sources from the sanitary sewer, as well as inspecting their sewage pipes," said Dennis Ostwinkle, DNR wastewater compliance coordinator.
While many collection systems in Iowa already have or are in the process of upgrading their collection systems to handle these events, many more need to upgrade, Ostwinkle said.
The problem has been acute this summer, with several area communities experiencing large bypasses of wastewater into rivers and lakes. The DNR has formed a committee to discuss how it handles wet weather bypasses.