Water pollution control plant preps for heavy rain

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The Western Virginia Water Authority and local governments in the Roanoke Valley were watching the weather forecast Wednesday, and preparing for the possibility of heavy rain.

WDBJ7 photo

Employees at the Roanoke Regional Water Pollution Control Plant were making sure they will have enough chemicals and staff on hand to deal with a higher volume of waste water entering the facility.

On a normal day, the plant will treat about 35 million gallons of waste water, but during periods of heavy rain, the volume is multiplied.

Sarah Baumgardner is a spokesperson for the Western Virginia Water Authority.

"During a large rain event, we've seen as much as 146 million gallons of flow come into the plant," she told WDBJ7. "And we're responsible for fully treating that."

It was starting to rain Wednesday morning when Baumgardner showed us some of the features that help the water pollution control plant deal with severe weather and high flow.

"These Archimedes screw pumps were installed in 2016, when we realized the bottleneck in the plant was getting flow out," Baumgardner said.

And then there is a secondary filter unit, and a basin now empty, that can treat and store more than 30 million gallons.

All improvements were designed to prevent untreated waste water from flowing into the Roanoke River.

"We do not have those plant overflows that we had in the past," Baumgardner said, "which is a benefit to our Roanoke River, and all of the communities downstream."

We also checked in with local governments that have regular inspection programs for storm drains, detention ponds and other potential trouble spots.

The city of Roanoke said crews were taking a closer look at about 30 areas where they have had problems in the past, to make sure they are clear of debris or sedimentation that could affect the flow of water.

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