Mar 31, 2009

City of Fargo, N.D., Works to Protect Water & Sewer Systems

Officials are asking residents to conserve water to avoid straining the city’s sewers and water pipes

Engineers in Fargo, N.D., are working to not only keep the floodwaters of the Red River out of the city, but also to defend their water and sewer systems, the Associated Press reported.

"If we lose water and sewer, the city is uninhabitable," said Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral.

The city’s two water plants are both near the river, but are protected by 43-ft dikes. Each plant also has secondary dike built up to 44 ft.

"The secondary protection is completely independent, and it isn't even engaged unless the primary protection fails," said Bruce Grubb, the city's manager of water, sewer and solid waste utilities. By early Sunday, the river had dropped below 40 ft.

Officials, keeping watch on the main dikes near the plants, are asking residents to conserve water in order to avoid any strain on the city’s sewers and water pipes.

In some parts of neighboring Moorhead, Minn., river water was forcing its way up into the street from storm drains, causing flooding.

Zavoral said Fargo wants to prevent problems like what occurred in 1997 when Grand Forks, N.D., lost its drinking water and sewage treatment plants to rising floodwaters.

"You have the potential for people to find themselves in unsanitary conditions, and then you have another crisis you have to deal with," Zavoral said.

City officials in Moorhead said their wastewater treatment plant and water plant are on high ground, and are not at risk. City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said although they have not gotten a lot of reports of sewage backup, "absolutely there will be some."