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Flooding causes sewage to spill into Meramec River

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FENTON, MO (KTVI) - You can smell the sewage in parts of town. Now the Meramec River is mixed with millions of gallons of raw sewage. Untreated wastewater began spilling into the river after flooding shutdown the Metropolitan Sewer District’s Fenton treatment plant. It treats nearly seven million gallons every day, but an MSD spokesman says it was treating more than three times that amount when it failed.

According to MSD spokesman Sean Hadley, alarm bells went off at about 8 p.m. Monday night as floodwater began seeping into the treatment plant control room.

The plant shut down as it was attempting to treat nearly 24 million gallons of sewage, about as much as 36 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It’s now spilling into the river and will continue every day that the plant is shut down. MSD notified the public at about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, nearly 12 hours after reported problems at the plant.

Hadley also cancelled an appearance on Fox 2 News in the Morning before MSD had announced the wastewater emergency. Why did MSD wait to notify the public?

“At that point when that occurred, we didn’t know the severity of what was going on. We were notified late last night that there was an issue at the Fenton treatment plant, but trying to figure out the severity of the situation, I mean—still, right now—we don’t even know the damage of the treatment plant itself,” Hadley said.

“This is one of those things where we had to know exactly what was going on before we could tell the public. I mean, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, we have a treatment plant that’s under water,’ but we need to know the severity and give you as much detail as we possibly can.”

Hadley said MSD workers first thought they might be able to get the plant back online Monday night and they didn’t want to give out any misinformation. He said MSD did immediately notify the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Fenton public works.

He said it’s impossible to know when the plant may start working again, if ever. They fear the entire plant could be under water again on Thursday.

Please avoid contact with any flood water or sewage in low-lying flooded areas near the plant. If you come into contact with flood water or sewage in the area, thoroughly wash with soap and water.

Meanwhile, Missouri American Water said the sewage spill has not impacted drinking water. A spokesman said they’ve increased water monitoring even though they don’t anticipate problems related to the failed wastewater treatment plant.