Record heavy rains this weekend overwhelmed the Water and Wastewater Utility in Racine, Wis., leading to the discharge of 3.78 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the Root River and Lake Michigan.
Keith Haas, general manager of the utility told the The Journal Times that this quantity is the equivalent of filling a football field-sized space with 30 feet of water.
The wastewater was deliberately dumped in order to prevent sewage backups into basements. Despite these efforts, sewage still entered numerous houses.
Over the weekend, the wastewater treatment plant reached a new peak flow of 231 million gallons per day, which is still well below the 308 million gallons per day capacity. However, discharges were necessary as the wastewater sewers could not handle the heavy volumes.
Even though Racine’s utility has separate storm water and wastewater sewer systems, water still enters Racine’s wastewater system through foundation drains in homes built before regulations changed in 1960, Haas told The Journal Times.
In a 24-hour period, the city set a record with 4.1 inches of rain, beating the record of 4 inches set on Sept. 11, 1933.
According to The Journal Times, the last major discharge in Racine occurred in April 1999, when 7.5 million gallons of wastewater were dumped into the lake.
After heavy rains in April, The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District dumped nearly 400 million gallons of a combination of storm water and untreated wastewater into Lake Michigan.