Area water safe after sewage dump in SheyenneFARGO — The state health department says residents here shouldn’t worry about their tap water, despite the sewage dumped into the Sheyenne River on Thursday and Friday in Valley City.
By: Erik Burgess, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The state health department says residents here shouldn’t worry about their tap water, despite the sewage dumped into the Sheyenne River on Thursday and Friday in Valley City.
The river dumping which began on Thursday morning should not have affected the water supply here, a state health official said.
“It should have minimal effect on the city of Fargo,” said Karl Rockeman, surface water discharge permits manager for the North Dakota Department of Health.
The metro area does take in water from the Sheyenne, but at the time of the event, Fargo water officials said they were not taking any water from the Sheyenne, according to a state health official.
“It was all coming from the Red,” Rockeman said. ‘There would be no impact on the drinking water.”
Valley City was rerouting sewage water from a malfunctioning lift station into the Sheyenne for about 30 hours starting early Thursday morning, but the issue was corrected on Friday afternoon.
“We can safely say that we’re no longer throwing anything into the river,” David Schelkoph, the city administrator, said Friday.
During routine maintenance on the city’s main sewage well, the plug on the master drain failed and flooded the station.
Six pumps that are used to move sewage from the well into the city’s sewage lagoon were inundated, causing major backup. Two of those pumps have since been fixed.
If not for the “heroic” work of the staff on hand, Schelkoph said hundreds of homes could’ve seen serious sewage damage. In order to prevent this, they began pumping the contents of the flooded station into the Sheyenne, he said.
“We just don’t do this all the time,” Schelkoph said. “It’s only during dire emergencies.”
He said increased water flows from Devils Lake helped to dilute the river water and perhaps decrease the impact of the sewage.
Impact to aquatic life would’ve been “immediate” but not necessarily significant, Rockeman said. The department of health is still investigating and collecting data from the area.
This is the second time in recent history that Valley City has pushed sewage water into the Sheyenne. It was also done in 2009 during serious flooding.
Rockeman said each situation is different, but generally these measures are taken only in extreme instances.
“This was not a good option, but it was better than the alternative, which would’ve allowed sewer backups into the city,” he said.
The Department of Health will be working with the city in the long run to assess repairing and potentially replacing the lift station if needed, Rockeman said.
Valley City is asking residents to still limit their water use until Monday, Schelkoph said.
Erik Burgess is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.