Sterling asks for water conservation; Rock Falls sewer documents released

STERLING, Ill. (KWQC) – Viewers reported several instances of flash flooding in Sterling streets Monday night, now Sterling’s sewer system faces a similar problem to Rock Falls. Too much water coming in too quickly. Last week Rock Falls sewer system was overwhelmed. Now, Sterling residents are being asked to conserve water.

Once people use water it ends up in the sewer system. With so much of it in the area, that’s not easy for the treatment plants to handle. Tuesday’s conservation request is precautionary, but as TV-6 Investigates saw in a FOIA response from Rock Falls, things can go from bad to worse quickly.

A Sterling sewer lift station next to the treatment plant grinds on, pulling water into the plant. So much wastewater in fact, the mayor says the city has nowhere to put it.

“Our sewage system is working at maximum capacity. The emergency dump places that we might use are drainage areas that are full of water,” says Mayor Skip Lee.

It led Sterling to ask its residents to conserve water Tuesday morning.

“I didn’t use much water when like doing dishes and stuff I just put a hold on that,” says Rock Falls resident Megan Schultheis.

She followed the request too even though she doesn’t live in Sterling. She’s worried Rock Falls may be inundated by water too, and hopes neither city has to turn off the water.

“I’ll be out of hours at work and stuff,” says Schultheis.

TV-6 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information Act with Rock Falls for more detailed information regarding last weeks water outage. The city returned detailed information Tuesday.

The Rock Falls lift station normally pumps up to 1.2 million gallons of waste water per day. Last week, seven to nine million gallons of water poured in and flooded the pumps.

Just before six p.m. last Monday, Rock Falls City Administrator Robbin Blackert texted the mayor “So it begins, three stations in all alarm, Ross is calling other people in, our priority is the plant and stations.”

Just over an hour later Mayor Bill Wescott responded, “Pumping started.”

Many small updates followed. After midnight, administrator Blackert texted bad news.

“Ed called and said that they have not made any progress for an hour they can’t catch up. He said we have 2 choices 1 shut down the water for the entire city or shut down all the lift stations for approximately half an hour to 45 minutes… I told him that we cannot shut down the water system in the middle of the night. So they are going to start shutting down lift stations right now and try to get the water down to the first floor.”

The water was off for fourteen hours.

“I don’t think it flooded too bad so I hope it stays the same,” says Schultheis, discussing Monday’s storm.

Sterling hopes it stays the same too.

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