The City of Evans has set up many portable toilets to cope with the "no flush" order. Many like these dot the map in town.  [Photo: Nathan Heffel, KUNC]

 

Story by Nathan Heffel, KUNC

 

Rushing water from the South Platte River has inundated homes, businesses and large swaths of land on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. In Evans, Colo. It’s also swamped one of two water treatment plants.

Residents of Evans whose homes were never directly touched by floodwaters from the South Platte River have also become victims to the floods rampant destruction.

The reason? About half of the city’s 20,000 resident’s are under a “no flush” order. That means, no wastewater can enter the system. “No shower, no laundry, no dishes,” said Vicky Stromberger of Evans. It also means no toilet.

With three families living in her home due to the flood that is a difficult prospect in an already tough situation. “My daughter was displaced from the flood,” laments Stromberger, “my in-laws have a total loss from the flood so we’re improvising.” Stromberger and others are taking up offers from family and friends to shower and launder.

In order to lessen the public’s burden the city is setting up 200 portable toilets throughout affected neighborhoods. Evans officials are imploring residents not to flush anything into the wastewater system.

Fred Starr, Director of Public Works for the city of Evans has been working since the plant at First Avenue and 37th Street went offline. He’s trying to find a solution that will allow him to lift the no-flush rule sooner.

“This is unprecedented for the city of Evans,” said Starr. “We’ve never had a flood or a stormwater event such as this that put such a pressure on our waste water system.”

Although the plant is a quarter of a mile away from the South Platte River, it was still inundated when a surge from both the flooding St. Vrain and Big Thompson Rivers raised water levels in the Platte and shut down the system.

“This started happening Friday afternoon as our plant was trying to pump a lot of flood water,” said Starr. “It caused the system to overload and we had the burning out of our electrical system.” The end result was the “no flush” rule.

The City of Greeley has offered to assist the with its waste water treatment. Located near the also flooding Cache la Poudre River to the north, Greeley’s plant suffered no damage due to flooding.

Discussions are still ongoing on how and if the city can assist Evans, “there are options that we could divert their flow to us, possibly another portion of their flow to the sanitary sewer line down of First Avenue since we’re basically located on First Avenue here at the South Plant as well,” said Tom Dingeman, Greeley’s manager of waste water treatment.

Starr says every option is on the table to get things back up and running.

“My wastewater operators they think this is their child, and they take the fact that they aren’t able to provide the service to the city of Evans the way they should. So they have a very personal stake in making sure we do this, do this quickly, and do this right,” said Starr.

There is no hard set date for the plant to be brought back online, but Starr says it could take another 10 days or more.

That’s news Vicky Stromberger doesn’t want to hear. “I know everyone’s doing the best that they can,” said Stromberger, “but I certainly hope the sewage system can be operational soon.”