Some Sterling residents ignore NO FLUSH order, sewage flowing into homes
Prison inmates help city crews divert raw sewage
Last Updated: 79 days ago
STERLING, Colo. - Authorities in Sterling say some residents are not obeying the NO FLUSH order and as a result, raw sewage is backing up into some homes.
“It’s not a widespread problem yet,” said Joe McBride of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, “but if it continues, more homes will get flooded.”
The NO FLUSH order was issued after flood waters inundated the main pumps of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The Logan County Search and Rescue dive team transported public works staff by boat to the flooded pump station Tuesday so they could study the problem.
City and state crews worked into the night trying to use a portable pump to remove water from the building. "Unfortunately those efforts were unsuccessful as water that was pumped out was replaced just as quickly as more river water flowed in," authorities said.
“We’ve got all levels of government up to the federal working on it,” McBride said. “So, it’s definitely one of the main priorities to get fixed here.”
While most homes in Sterling remain untouched by floodwaters, the NO FLUSH order is presenting a challenge to the city’s 14,725 residents.
“It’s like camping without a tent,” said Steven Staton. “You can’t flush your toilet. You can’t take a shower. Foodwise, you can’t go to any restaurants. They’re all closed. So it’s a challenge.”
Staton, who lives on one side of the river and works on the other, says it’s also a challenge trying to get across.
“If they close highway 63 near Atwood, I’ll have to drive clear to Fort Morgan to get to work,” he said. “It’ll have to drive one and a half hours out of my way to cross a five mile expanse.”
CDOT crews spent a good portion of the day dropping off truckloads of gravel and dirt alongside the highway in an attempt to stem the river’s flow over the pavement.
The distant flood is also affecting the Sterling Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Tom Soper, an internist at the hospital, told 7NEWS, “We’ve diverted all of our emergent surgeries and have rescheduled elective surgeries.”
He said porta-potties have been placed around the hospital’s perimeter for patients and staff.
“We did have to do an emergency surgery last evening,” Soper said. “All the sterilization will obviously occur off site. We’re following the NO FLUSH policy.”
The doctor also said they have bags and kitty litter if needed.
“Our thoughts are with those who have it a lot worse than we do,” he said. “The challenges we face are trying to maintain the facility as best we can and to keep it safe and secure.”
He said so far, flood waters have not approached the hospital neighborhood.
Prison inmates help divert sewage
Ten low-security inmates from the Sterling Correctional Facility are helping city crews in their efforts to control flooding at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
"They're laying pipe to divert sewage," Department of Corrections spokesman Roger Hudson told 7NEWS.
As for the prison itself, Hudson says they are on “modified operations.”
“We are limiting water use,” he said. “We are limiting showers, sending the laundry out and are limiting the use of toilets. We have 160 porta-potties.”
Hudson also said they are conserving water in the kitchen and are using paper products when possible.
Hudson told 7NEWS that the Sterling Correctional Facility continues to truck in additional fresh drinking water. That practice began after an elevated level of naturally-occurring uranium was detected in the city's water supply.
Ron Falco, the Drinking Water Program Manager at the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment told 7NEWS that the standard for uranium is 30 micrograms per liter of water. He said recent tests in late August showed a level of 31 micrograms per liter in Sterling’s water supply.
Emergency Management officials say the city’s water supply has not been compromised by the flood and that residents can drink the water, but can’t shower in it or release it down the sink drain.
In an effort to provide alternative facilities to residents barred from using flush toilets, Sterling officials are placing portable toilets at parks throughout the city. Some of the toilets comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The portable toilet Locations are:
--Columbine Park 1401 S. 3rd Ave., 2 ADA, 19 Regular
--Earl Franklin Park 201 Front St., 8 Regular
--MacGregor Hall 1200 N. 5th St., 2 ADA, 5 Regular
--Pioneer Park 17615 Highway 14, 1 ADA, 12 Regular
--Pioneer Park Ball fields 13075 CR 37, 2 ADA, 10 Regular
--Prairie Park 807 Elm St., 2 ADA, 20 Regular
--Propst Park 615 Elm, 6 Regular
--Sterling Middle School 1177 Pawnee St., 1 ADA, 10 Regular
--Wisdom Park 320 Plainview, 10 Regular
The city has also placed an order for 500 personal camp toilets that will be provided to residents with mobility issues, city officials said.
The city is also obtaining a large roll-off dumpster to use as a waste collection site for Sterling residents. The site will be located at the playing fields across from Home Depot, officials said. "Residents are asked to use this site as a means to dispose of their waste only, not as a trash receptacle," the city statement said. "The instructions will include opening each bag and adding a couple of scoops of kitty litter or wood chips to each bag, or enough to soak up the liquid, the bags should then be securely re-sealed, and placed gently in the receptacle to avoid as much breaking or leakage as possible. Signs with instructions will be placed on the dumpster and around town."
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.