Levee improvements pay off quick for Marseilles

Wastewater Treatment Facility protected by floodwall, automated pumping

Even as the floodwaters of the Illinois River surrounded Marseilles’ North Wastewater Treatment Facility last week, the staff at the city’s main treatment facility remained calm.

Thanks to a $1.6 million Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant from FEMA, there was reason for optimism as the Illinois River jumped its banks.

“Pump mobilization and a call for volunteers to lend a hand in sandbagging the nearly 1,600-foot perimeter of levee would have been in full force during recent flood events,” Wastewater Superintendent Jason Rix said. “Luckily, the levee improvement project was completed last fall, and everything was in place to combat the near-record flood level.”

In the past, city staff and a wide range of volunteers – from residents to EMS personnel to inmates within the Illinois Department of Corrections – had been called upon to place approximately 3,000 sandbags along the levee of the treatment facility as a flood-protection measure.

Additionally, 30-year-old, portable-gas-powered pumps were used to pump effluent, which normally would flow to the river by gravity, over the earthen levee. The pumps and river level needed to be monitored around the clock, so a flood event occurring in the spring usually guaranteed budgeted line items such as overtime pay and fuel costs behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the fiscal year.

“During the May 2019 flood, our staff put in 85 hours of overtime and the pumps consumed over 630 gallons of fuel. In total, looking at overtime and fuel, the event cost the city – just at a department level – in excess of $7,000,” Rix said. “With the new floodwall and the addition of an automated pumping system, we’ve only incurred eight hours of overtime, and fuel consumption was non-factor.”

By providing protection from inundation to the city’s North Wastewater Treatment Facility, the levee improvement project not only provides protection to the multimillion-dollar facility but also protects the assets of residents within the community.

“If the plant were to take on water from an event like this, the financial impact would be immeasurable,” Rix said. “Basements throughout town would be backed up with sewage, and our facility would not be fully operational for weeks, if not months. Couple that with the environmental impact of untreated waste flowing into our creeks and streams, and the impact could be very damaging to the area.”