ELYRIA — For many, a huge storm is nothing more than an excuse to hunker down until the rain passes, but for city employees in the Wastewater Pollution Control Plant, a storm switches operations into high gear.
That was the case Tuesday morning when a summer storm dumped a lot of rain on the city in less than two hours. The weather overwhelmed the city sewer system and tested the capacity of the wet weather storage tank.
“It was a hectic day for all of our divisions,” said Terry Korzan, superintendent of the Office of Wastewater Pollution Control.
Korzan said the rain came down so fast that the 1.6 million gallon wet weather storage tank not only filled up quickly but also had to start dumping water directly into the Black River. The tank is normally empty and only fills so storm water does not overwhelm the plant’s system.
“When you see a storm like that coming on radar, you don’t know it’s going to dump 1.8 inches in 90 minutes. Normally, we will get 1.8 inches over a period of 10 to 12 hours,” Korzan said. “Even the best system cannot handle that kind of storm.”
While the EPA mandates that water go through a treatment process before it is expelled into the Black River, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said a major rain event is the exception to the rule.
“We won’t know for a few days how many gallons bypassed the system and went to the river,” she said. “But it is expected at times, and we report all overage amounts to the EPA monthly.”
Korzan said the tank is designed as a primary clarifier. Large solid items drop to the bottom and smaller waste is skimmed off the top.
“The water that goes into that tank gets preliminary treatment before it bypasses the system and goes into the river,” he said. “But residents should know the water that goes into the tank is about 90 percent stormwater and 10 percent is sanitary. It still has some sanitary water in the tank, but not nearly as much as flows through our system.”
In addition, to a busy day at the plant, Korzan said sewer collection crews were very busy clearing catch basins so streets that flooded could run clear. Crews also were busy answering calls to the plant from residents who worried about all of the water backing up because of the rain.
And, if all of that didn’t make for a frantic day, Korzan said the power went out at the plant for roughly 15 minutes, which jumpstarted the backup generator.
“We were happy to see the storm go. Everyone had their hands full,” Korzan said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.