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Heavy Rains Cause Few Problems At B-N Water Treatment Plants

Sugar Creek took on excess runoff from the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District wastewater treatment plant during last weekend's storms.
Charlie Schlenker
Sugar Creek took on excess runoff from the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District's wastewater treatment plant during last weekend's storms.

The head of the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District says he now knows the agency's two wastewater treatment plants can survive nearly 11 inches of rain in three days.

Director Randy Stein said the two plants — in west Bloomington and rural Heyworth — had only a few minor problems while processing storm and wastewater pumping through at three to four times their usual flow.

“We treated our maximum capacity at both plants quite well with no failures of equipment on the treatment side,” Stein said.

Stein said at its peak, the treatment plant in West Oakland Avenue in Bloomington was processing at a rate greater than 90 million gallons per day. BNWRD processes 24.5 million gallons of wastewater on an average day, according to Stein, adding the facility's large lagoon was able to store most of that water.

“I’ve been here 30 years and we’ve never seen a storm like this, and we weathered this storm better than the ones earlier in my career that didn’t have the dual systems,” explained Stein, adding the 87-million-gallon lagoon is still nearly full days later. “If we have another big rain today, we are going to be back in the same place we were Saturday,” Stein said.

Stein said some wastewater was discharged into Sugar Creek. He said the water was heavily diluted by the storms, adding wastewater runoff into the creek is far less common now than it was before the lagoon was installed.

“The habitat of the creek and the population of the fish there in Sugar Creek downstream of our plant, you could see an improvement starting in 2007 when that lagoon was first put in place,” he said.

The BNWRD plant near Heyworth typically processes about 5 million gallons of wastewater per day, but at its peak was dealing with a 17 million-gallon-per day rate, said Stein.

Stein said the Bloomington plant experienced some flooding, some of the plant's storm gates leaked, and one grit chamber that eliminates grit and other materials wore down, though he said a backup chamber captured those unwanted materials. Stein said a lightning strike forced them to move to a backup communications system.

Stein estimated the it would cost under $100,000 to replace damaged equipment, but said overtime costs could push the storm’s price tag close to $200,000. Stein said he has shared that information with McLean County emergency management. The county is compiling a list of storm damage to request state and federal emergency relief.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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