News Feature | January 26, 2016

Heroic Wastewater Workers To The Rescue During Flood

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Wastewater workers in Illinois got heroic recently during a flood.

In late December and early January, Illinois was hit by massive floods. “Dozens of roads across the Heartland are under water after heavy rain and rising river levels,” KFVS reported at the time.

Flooding along the Big Muddy River blocked the road to the sewage treatment plant in Murphysboro, IL. It was not possible to walk or drive to the plant, WPSD reported.

Murphysboro Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Brian Manwaring described the dilemma: "At some point, we would lose sewer service for the town of Murphysboro if we couldn't get employees in and out to maintain the facility.”

Wastewater Operator John Hunziker and a crew of his colleagues did not give up. Instead, they got creative, finding another way in. “The only way in was by boat," Hunziker said, per the report.

With nearly three feet of water in the road, four plant workers boated in and out of work to ensure the plant would remain functional.

"The plant's got to be run. Somebody's got to be here," Hunziker said. "We were able to stay in the back channels. We didn't have to get out on the main river, so that doesn't make it too bad on us. There's no current in there right now."

Manwaring said the town has applied for grants to improve the path to the plant or move the plant entirely, but they have all been turned down.

The Illinois Department of Public Health urges caution around flood water. “Flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses and other organisms that may cause disease,” the department says.

For more news concerning water treatment plant employees, visit Water Online’s Labor Solutions Center.