Rio combats flood sewage issues

Rio Grande’s waste water treatment plant was flooded early in the morning on July 14. Crews are working around the clock to get the facility fully operational again.

RIO GRANDE — High flood waters from a series of thunderstorms over the week have threatened Rio Grande’s sewage processing capabilities.

“On July 14, one of our guys who works for the wastewater treatment plant started receiving calls at about one o’clock in the morning that there was a problem. By the time he got here, the water was up to the (wastewater facility’s) gate and he had to back up,” said Sandy Perry, chairperson of Rio Grande’s Water and Sewer Board. “We had to drain water out of the dikes (around the facility designed to keep water out) as one of our first tasks.”

The wastewater facility for Rio Grande was designed in the 1960s to prevent flooding to the facility with hills (dikes). Gallia County Engineer Brett Boothe told the Tribune earlier in the week the latest storms had caused some of the most extensive water damage he had seen in the area.

Perry said there was water up to the roof of one of the main control buildings in the wastewater facility during the early morning flood. She said when she arrived at the facility at 6:30 a.m., water had receded to the top of the building’s door. She said one of Rio Grande’s fire trucks arrived to help pump water out of the property to aid in clearing a way to the control building. Ohio Department of Natural Resources brought in equipment as well to aid in the water removal. The village also rented a pump from Bridgeport to help in water removal.

Perry said the Rio Grande wastewater plant receives sewage from the Centerville area.

According to Perry, the village called in an electrician. AEP had to perform an emergency power disconnect for the facility because main power systems did not “throw.” Steam was spotted from the control building as an electrical transformer was “burning up.”

Rio Grande Mayor Matt Easter asks people in the community to “remain patient and conservative with water usage” until the plant is operational again.

Perry noted the community is asking everyone to conserve usage because the facility is still pumping “raw sewage to an affluent.” She said that is not typical practice as the sewage needs treatment, but power constraints on the facility made proper treatment difficult and the community still needed to function.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was notified by Rio Grande officials of the situation and arrived on site Wednesday to help advise. Gallia County EMA has also lent informational assistance to the Rio Grande community in the emergency time period.

Perry said the major concern for the wastewater facility was getting the control building operational as it “monitored what treatments needed done and how to do them” with its control panels and “buzz box.”

“When Mother Nature wants you to feel small, she will,” Easter said. “This was unforeseen. We are very proud of our maintenance staff and all those that waded in the water to get (the facility) up and running.”

Easter said “folks are working 24/7 on the problem” and that he had good “vibes” the facility would be fully operational again soon.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.