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Wastewater floods Charlottesville parks after storm damages pump station

The Rivanna near Riverview and Darden Towe parks in Charlottesville remains unsafe after wastewater flooded the river earlier this month.

That’s according to the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, which is working to repair a damaged pump station that flooded during a rainstorm in the second week of January.

The damage led to an unknown amount of wastewater being released from the station, spilling into parks and the river.

“I expect there may be overflow … until we get the bypass system up and functioning,” the authority’s spokeswoman Betsy Nemeth told The Daily Progress.

The Moore’s Creek pump station is the largest of the authority’s facilities and is responsible for cleaning most of the wastewater produced in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. With the station currently nonfunctional, crews are installing pumps which will clean the water in the sewer system while bypassing the station completely.

Nemeth said that by end of this week, "we should be able to bypass about 50 million gallons of water. The average is 60 to 70 million, but 50 million ensures if we have a storm coming in, obviously we can take care of it.”

The authority says the water being pumped into people’s homes is still clean and drinkable.

“RWSA is very confident that the water in people’s homes is not affected. The water treatment systems are completely separate from the wastewater treatment systems,” Nemeth said. “Our water treatment plants are operated by licensed water operators who ensure that the water they treat is safe for the community. We test drinking water throughout the treatment process to ensure the quality and safety of the finished water we are providing to people.”

While it appears there was some sort of equipment malfunction at the facility that caused the overflow, the authority has not yet been able to identify the specific problem. That’s because the station remains flooded. Once crews can bypass the station, the water within will recede, allowing officials to enter and diagnose exactly what went wrong.

“Some of it may just have been some kind of surge from the storm. Therein lies the mystery. We really need to get in and take a look at it,” Nemeth said. “The bypass gets us to that point. We’ll get the bypass done and then figure out what in the world happened, and frankly make sure that it never happens again.”

Both Riverview and Darden Towe have been substantially flooded, and both still have brown water lingering in parts. Nemeth said that much of that flooding is from the storm, but wastewater is certainly mixed in.

“I would tell you at this point I don’t think I’d be swimming in the river. I’d recommend people don’t,” she said.


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