NORWALK, Conn. – UPDATE, 8:50 A.M. - At his morning briefing, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stated that all sewage treatment plants are up and running statewide after several were shut down or were threatened by floodwaters. This includes Norwalk, and it is safe to use toilets again.
ORIGINAL STORY: Due to the amount of water the tides and Hurricane Sandy are dumping into the city, the Norwalk Wastewater Treatment Plant on South Smith Street is in jeopardy of failing, and it could be shut down for weeks.
At a Monday evening press conference at police headquarters, Norwalk Public Work Director Harold Alvord said the city will likely shut down the facility an hour before the next high tide, which is scheduled to be at 12:08 a.m. Tuesday.
“The water from the last high tide has not receded, so the system will likely be overwhelmed,” Alvord said. “We’re almost certain to lose operation of the plant.”
During Hurricane Irene in 2011, the city nearly had to shut down the facility because it almost dumped too much water for the plant to process, Alvord said, but it avoided a shutdown by a couple of feet. Hurricane Sandy is dumping more water into the region due to tidal surges that are being increased by a full moon and some of the city’s pump stations are also straining to keep up.
If the plant is shut down, it could take weeks to dry out and repair submerged treatment and pumping equipment, Alvord said, and the city is already contacting contractors to be ready to begin those repairs as soon as possible.
The repercussions of a lengthy plant shutdown could eventually be felt throughout the city, particularly in low-lying areas. Essentially, untreated or partially treated sewer water would end up being discharged directly in Long Island Sound, and in some cases household toilets could begin backing up.
Alvord said that whenever possible, residents should try to limit their water and toilet usage over the next few days, and possibly next few weeks to help the plant ease back into service.
“We’re asking people to try like the dickens not to use too much water,” Alvord said.
The storm, which has grown stronger over the late afternoon and evening, has resulted in about 3,300 households losing power, said Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia. But city crews have been pulled off the road for the rest of Monday night because the darkness and high winds make tree and other work too difficult.
“We have reports of a tremendous number of trees and power lines down,” said Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik.
The paddle wheel boat, the Bell Island, broke its dock and mooring at Veterans Memorial Park in East Norwalk late Monday afternoon, but police and fire personnel were able to help secure it across the Norwalk River to a dock on the Water Street side, said Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy.
Approximately 150 people were at the temporary shelter at Brien McMahon High School as of about 5 p.m. Monday, Moccia said, and more were expected to arrive there Monday night. The facility can hold about 450 people.