Photos: Sewage backing up into Sterling homes as some disobey "NO FLUSH" order

Our recent overabundance of water, resulting in flooding that has devastated so many Front Range areas, continues to flow east, effecting communities downstream. And while the damage thus far has generally been less impactful than in places like Lyons and Jamestown, plenty of problems have cropped up. Witness Sterling, where flood waters inundated the town's water treatment plant, prompting a "NO FLUSH" order. But some people appear to be ignoring it, causing truly disgusting repercussions -- like sewage backing up into homes.

City crews have been working hard to restore sewage lines and the like, as seen in this photo from the Logan County Sheriff's Office Facebook page....

...and others in this post. However, the fix is not yet complete, as is made clear in this excerpt from a City of Sterling press release:

Despite work into the night Sterling Public Works, with assistance from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the Colorado National Guard, was unable to pump floodwater out of the building housing the main pumps for Sterling's wastewater facility.

"The issue we have is that the pumps used to take the wastewater to the treatment site are under water," said City officials. "The Logan County Search and Rescue dive team boated several of us to the pump station last night so we could take a look at the situation. Crews worked into the evening hours trying to utilize a portable pump to get the water out of the building. Unfortunately those efforts were unsuccessful as water that was pumped out was replaced just as quickly as more river water flowed in."

Most people appear to be following the water-use guidelines, often in creative ways. For instance, students at Northeastern Junior College are praised on the Northeast Colorado Health Department Facebook page for one creative solution: outdoor bathing.

But when it comes to an even more private function, the town is scrambling. Portable toilets have been placed in the following locations in Sterling:

• Columbine Park 1401 S. 3rd Ave., 2 ADA, 19 Regular • Earl Franklin Park 201 Front St., 8 Regular • MacGregor Hall 1200 N. 5th St., 2 ADA, 5 Regular • Pioneer Park 17615 Highway 14, 1 ADA, 12 Regular • Pioneer Park Ball fields 13075 CR 37, 2 ADA, 10 Regular • Prairie Park 807 Elm St., 2 ADA, 20 Regular • Propst Park 615 Elm, 6 Regular • Sterling Middle School 1177 Pawnee St., 1 ADA, 10 Regular • Wisdom Park 320 Plainview, 10 Regular

In addition, an order for 500 personal camping toilets has been placed. But some residents appear to still be using their own facilities. The results are spelled out simply in this LCSO statement: "PLEASE, follow the No Flush Order guidelines, we have reports of the sewage backing up into some homes in Sterling."

Here are some sample Facebook reactions to this situation:

If they could get more porta potties that might help some. I know some folks don't seem to get this!!! Ack!!!

We're on a no flush order? Lol j/k. I've flushed once in 3 days and it was an accident due to habit.

You guys should shut off our water! if people are not going to listen then do it!!!

I do know its frustrating but I know they are trying to round them up and get as many from where ever they can a common event for weekend with 25,000 people attending in Jeffco only use about 15 portable toilets so its hard to find enough at least they are trying.

Continue for more photos, safety information from the Northern Colorado Health Department and a news report about the "NO FLUSH" edict in Sterling.  

Northern Colorado Health Department press release:

Public health concerns linger due to flooding

September 18, 2013 -- 5:30 p.m.

Since the City of Sterling's "no flush and limited water use" order is still in effect residents are urged to continue to comply. In order to limit the potential for spread of disease, county officials have secured a large roll-off dumpster that will serve as a waste collection site for Sterling residents. The Northeast Colorado Health Department recommends that this method of disposal should take the place of storing waste outside your home. The site is located at the Sterling ball field across from Home Depot; there will be instructions on how to properly dispose of the bags posted at that location and the site will be monitored by Waste Management.

In addition to the waste collection site, more portable toilets, including some that are ADA-compliant, are on the way from several contractors and are being placed as evenly as possible on city property throughout Sterling. Locations of these include:

• Columbine Park 1401 S. 3rd Ave., 2 ADA, 19 Regular • Earl Franklin Park 201 Front St., 8 Regular • MacGregor Hall 1200 N. 5th St., 2 ADA, 5 Regular • Pioneer Park 17615 Highway 14, 1 ADA, 12 Regular • Pioneer Park Ball fields 13075 CR 37, 2 ADA, 10 Regular • Prairie Park 807 Elm St., 2 ADA, 20 Regular • Propst Park 615 Elm, 6 Regular • Sterling Middle School 1177 Pawnee St., 1 ADA, 10 Regular • Wisdom Park 320 Plainview, 10 Regular

As long as the "no flush, limited water use" order remains in effect, many licensed retail food, body art, childcare and pool facilities in Sterling will remain closed until the wastewater treatment pumps are working. The only facilities that are open are those serving pre-packaged, single-serve items.

"These conditions are far from ideal and we acknowledge that wholeheartedly," said Dr. Tony Cappello, NCHD"s public health director. "But whatever issues we've got going right now, we will get through them together. We have so much to be thankful for, most importantly the fact we have had no injuries or deaths as a result of this flooding, our strength in community and our partnerships will get us though the hurdles we still have to face. We are being inconvenienced right now in a way we are not used to, but there is so much going on behind the scenes that has brought us together, and unfortunately some people may never witness that. This is a strong, resilient community and one of the things we do best out here is pull together in tough times. I am very proud of the way members of this community have stepped up to volunteer and offer solutions and hope that attitude continues."

As the city moves into the cleanup phase of this situation, NCHD has made several provisions for those affected by cleanup and flooding. Any resident in NCHD's jurisdiction that had their well compromised by flood waters can get their well water tested by NCHD for total coliforms and E.coli free of charge. Only those wells that had flood waters cover the well head need to be tested for contamination related to the flooding. A sterile bottle is required and can be picked up at any NCHD office. Instructions on how to disinfect a private well are located on our website, www.nchd.org.

In addition, NCHD has secured 500 doses of TD (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccine to give also free of charge to those working directly with flood waters, debris and those handling sewage. The vaccine is expected to arrive in the next couple of days and we highly encourage those who come in contact with flood materials to get vaccinated. As we don't have the vaccine in hand yet, we don't have vaccination clinic dates set up. Once we do we will put information out regarding times and dates. Once we get through the priority list we will open the vaccine up to others as we receive additional supplies.

Health officials would also like to put out another reminder that residents stay away from flood waters and piles of debris, as both of these should be considered contaminated and hazardous.

The Northeast Colorado Health Department has continued to update their website with flood information resources. New information posted today includes several facts sheets on flood topics in both English and Spanish, a fact sheet on how to clean up if sewage backs up into your residence, and the proper solutions to sanitize with bleach. The information is all available electronically on their website, www.nchd.org, and has also been printed off and is available in both their Sterling and Fort Morgan offices.

Here's a 7News report about the situation:

More from our News archive: "Photos of the Day: Animal evacuations after flood in Boulder."


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