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Heavy Rain, Melting Snow Cause Problems

March 10, 2011 by Josh Morgan

Remember the old nursery rhyme that goes “rain, rain, go away, come again another day”? Several Town of Cheshire officials are repeating that line today as they brace for more rainfall that could lead to serious problems this afternoon.
From Sunday night to Monday morning, Cheshire was pounded with rain that resulted in severe flooding in the area. The Quinnipiac and Mill rivers overflowed its banks causing travel concerns and road closures. Around four inches of rain fell in Cheshire last Sunday night through Monday morning and created quite a few issues around town. According to Director of Public Works Joseph Michelangelo, Marion Road in Cheshire was reduced to one lane as water flooded half the street. It was a similar scenario on Cheshire Street near East Ridge Court, where water covered one of the travel lanes. Also, the Quinnipiac flooded West Johnson Avenue and Blacks Road, with both areas being barricaded and closed for a portion of the day.
"Water overflowed in some locations," explained Michelangelo. "Crews were out, going around to culverts and pulling out debris."
Roads were closed from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Michelangelo stated.
During “long, constant” rain, Michelangelo explained, larger rivers like the Quinnipiac become flooded, whereas smaller streams are more susceptible to "flash storms." Those quick storms result in flash floods, which wouldn't even show "a blip on larger rivers" but can still be dangerous. With another storm predicted today into tomorrow, Michelangelo said residents should expect some similar problems as witnessed on Monday.
"I expect problems Thursday with more rain," he said. "The rivers will rise again and the problems will be similar. It could inundate the roads for several hours, then recede again."
As a result of the heavy rains on Monday, the Wastewater Treatment Plant backed up into Riverside Drive for a short period of time. According to Plant Superintendent Dennis Dievert, the amount of rain, coupled with the Quinnipiac River overflowing and covering a handful of manholes, caused problems down at the plant. Additionally, a new pump, which is supposed to be able to pump twice as much wastewater as the older model, broke after just two weeks of use. Losing the pump pushed the plant over its limits, resulting in the backup.
"We were pumping so much here it was phenomenal," Dievert said. "It was tough. We would have been better off it we didn't lose that (new) pump. We still aren't sure why it broke."
Workers removed the pump and, after dissembling it, found a porcelain piece on the inside of the motor was broken. The pump is under warranty and will be replaced, but losing a new pump during torrential rainstorms is not an ideal situation.
Riverside Drive was closed for a period of the day on Monday because of the backup. Residents in that area still recall the April 2007 rainstorm that caused the plant to back up into the neighborhood, and Dievert said the storm earlier this week "came pretty close" to causing the issues seen four years ago. Most of the pump stations around town were working at full capacity and the constant stream of water through the plant was "more than we've ever had," Dievert said.
"Luckily, we had the ability to handle it this time. We handled it within a day," he said.
The rain in the forecast today into tomorrow "will be a problem" if it is as serious as meteorologists are predicting, Dievert said. With four inches falling just a few short days ago, the ground is still wet and there is still standing water in parts of the plant.
"You couldn't tell the grass from the pavement," Dievert explained.
Dievert said a major culprit causing problems at the plant are sump pumps that are illegally connected to the sewer system. Residents were pumping out their basements into sewer pipes and clean water was being processed with wastewater, pushing the plant over capacity.
Fire Chief Jack Casner said that between Sunday night and yesterday morning, the department responded to more than 40 calls for severe water conditions in residents' basements. According to Casner, it's been pretty much nonstop since Sunday and, in some cases, "there was several feet of water" in the home. Even homes with sump pumps "couldn't keep up," Casner explained.
The department brings its own pumps to help discharge water out of the home. Besides damaging property, water in the basement could lead to even bigger problems if it infiltrates electrical boxes, boilers, and other equipment in the home. Casner urged residents who live in flood plains or areas where water infiltration is a constant problem to invest in sump pumps and be prepared for future storms.
"Hopefully, people can make arrangements and provisions to prepare for water in their basements," Casner said. "We've been stretched extremely thin over the last few days."

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