Dirty work: Businesses bail sewage after storm

December 28, 2006 12:00 am

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

Some local business owners spent the day after Christmas cleaning up wastewater that washed into Crescent City shops and restaurants.

The problem followed two days of heavy rains that overwhelmed the city's sewer system. The back-up lifted manhole covers in streets and released feces, wastewater and toilet paper in low-lying areas near M and N streets.

It also backed through drains in nearby businesses.

At Chere's Boutique on Front Street, workers cleaned the bathrooms where water rose out of drains.

"We were very fortunate. It could have been a lot worse," said shop owner Chere Wier, noting that the wastewater did not reach the store's carpets or merchandise.

And the shop was closed anyway on Tuesday, Wier said.

But next door at the new Ambrosia Grill, restaurant owner David McPhail had to close and cancel reservations after wastewater began rushing out of drains. Workers bailed water out of a back door.

"It was just a lot of cleaning yesterday. A lot of disinfectant," said McPhail, who contacted the state health department for guidelines to meet before re-opening Wednesday. "We have concrete floors, thank God."

McPhail plans to file reimbursement claims with the city for cleaning costs and lost revenue and wages.

"No one mentioned that it's possible the sewer could get inundated with water," said McPhail, who opened the restaurant over the fall.

The problem occurs after big storms and troubles businesses about once a year, city Public Works Director Jim Barnts said Tuesday.

The city aims to start a nearly $25 million project next year to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant at Beachfront Park. Part of the work would install new pumps that could handle more incoming wastewater than the current ones.

The wastewater did not invade Vita Cucina, a kitchen shop that shares a building with Ambrosia Grill and Chere's Boutique. But store worker Onna Hyde has noticed water pooling in the parking lot in front of the building during storms — along with a smell.

For the first time, wastewater seeped into the North Coast Nature Center on Secnd Street, center director Rae Fearing said.

Manhole covers on roads lifted and wastewater washed in under the building's door to reach a patch of carpet.

The water did not damage materials but required clean-up work. City crews placed sandbags at doorways to block the flow.

"The water was just gushing up," Fearing said.

At the Travelodge, owner Sonia Chou called city crews to release an outside drain that kept the back-up from discharing in the hotel.

"Luckily, the rain stopped," Chou said.

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