By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Christmas Day brought Crescent City more than 4 inches of rain that caused city sewer pipes to overflow, sending wastewater out of manholes onto some local roads.
"You could say it's raw sewage, but most of it's water," said city public works director Jim Barnts. "Not that you'd want to be in it."
When too much wastewater from homes and businesses threatens to overpower the pumps that process it at the city wastewater treatment plant at Beachfront Park, devices block the incoming fluids.
"It only has so much capacity," Barnts said of the plant that can take about 5 million gallons of water each day. "Those pumps can only handle so much flow."
The wastewater then begins backing up.
"And then it'll start coming out in different places," Barnts said. "The lowest places."
Those include manholes at Second, N and M streets, near Safeway, the Crescent City Cinema and Rural Human Services.
Those also include businesses in those areas, and Barnts expects complaints from them soon.
The sewage overflow problem has taken place about once a year for at least the past several years in three out of the last four, it happened in the week between the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
"I think it was going on, you know, long before that," Barnts said.
Complaint claims from businesses total up to $10,000 each year, partly to clean or repair shops and restaurants after wastewater rises up from floor drains and out of toilets in low-lying areas.
Aside from revamping the city wastewater treatment plant, "there's really nothing we can do to fix it," Barnts said.
The city is seeking bids for a nearly $25 million project to upgrade the plant, partly with bigger pumps that can handle about two times the amount of wastewater than currently.
"We won't have this problem anymore," Barnts said. "It would take a much bigger storm."
Barnts said that he knew of no citations from state or federal government on the problem, but that it likely violated their rules.
At 4.36 inches, the rainfall total in Crescent City broke the Dec. 25 record of 1.99 set in 1955.
"Pretty impressive," Carol Ciliberti, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Eureka, said of the watery holiday.
"It always makes people feel better if it breaks a record," she said. "As opposed to just wet."
A storm from the northwest brought the heavy rain at the start of the week, along with 20 to 30 mph winds from the south.
Meteorologists expected the showers to stop late Wednesday, as cold, dry air and strong winds from the north moved into the region and pushed the storm east.
But by early Monday afternoon, rain had pooled on local roads. It later knocked out power for some homes.
Area police and emergency crew members reported standing water near U.S. 101 intersections at Elk Valley Road and Sand Mine Road, as well as on some side roads off of Parkway Drive such as Sleepy Hollow Road and Sandmann Road.
Downed wires in Klamath canceled power to nearly 840 people from about 10 a.m. Tuesday, said Pacific Power regional community manager Monte Mendenhall.
Mendenhall expected them to regain power at about 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Another 80 customers lost power in the Kings Valley area of U.S. Highway 101, just north of Crescent City, just after 2 p.m. Mendenhall expected them to regain it later Tuesday evening.
Crescent City has collected 12.15 inches of rain so far this month, compared to the normal 9.14 inches for December
Since July, the city has collected 29.01 inches, compared to the usual 26.35 inches
Since Jan. 1, the city has collected 76.67 inches compared to the normal 64.73 inches