Public works departments in the Illinois Quad-Cities are getting put through their paces because of the river flooding and recent rains.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Mississippi River was at 22.29 feet and expected to crest at 22.4 feet this (Thursday) morning, just below the record 22.6 feet of the 1993 crest, according to the National Weather Service. The flood stage is 15 feet.
East Moline had 13 pumps working as of Wednesday afternoon to send stormwater from inside of the floodwalls out to the river, Dave Lambrecht, East Moline’s director of maintenance services, said. Those pumps have been going steadily for 30 days. Just the three on the edge of Watertown can each pump 21,000 gallons per minute.
“Every thing’s been running for days and days,” Lambrecht said.
The concern is getting the stormwater out of East Moline’s drainage to prevent flash floods, he said. The recent rains have no place to go because the ground is saturated and the floodgates to the Mississippi River are closed.
“That’s the biggest fear is that flash flood,” Lambrecht said.
Moline had nine pumps along the riverfront, with two of those being held in reserve, Rodd Schick, the city's municipal services general manager, said. Most of the ones in operation were also dealing with stormwater, though three of them deployed near Heritage Church (the former Kone Center) were dealing with a mix. Those three pumps together are getting rid of 19,000 gallons per minute.
Rock Island had 19 pumps operating along the Mississippi, and one in reserve, said Randall Tweet, the city manager, said.
The wet conditions are also increasing the workload of the three municipalities sewer infrastructures
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Moline’s JD Schulte, Moline director of public works, said the city’s North Slope plant was treating the excess and and letting it back into the river while it was being stored at the South Slope plant, on the Rock River side of the city. The city was planning to start treating and releasing that water within a few days.
The drinking water plant has had fixed flood defenses since the massive flood of 1965 that have successfully countered the floods since that year, Tony Loete, the city’s utilities general manager, said.
Rock Island was also seeing increased flow through its sewer infrastructure, Tweet said. Its drinking water operation was not suffering any flood-related issues.
East Moline has seen a few sewer backups, but nothing that caused problems for residents or that required significant clean up, Lambrecht said. The drinking water system was doing well.
There has also been some personnel costs, the three cities said.
Rock Island has street and utility maintenance staff on its first shift keeping an eye on the flood operations, then four each on the second and third shifts, Tweet said. Staff have earned overtime, but details on how much was not available Wednesday.
Moline is similarly arranged with about 12 staff on its first shift that do flood monitoring and set up, then two each on its second and third shifts to handle monitoring during those hours, Schick said. About 36 work hours have been devoted specifically to flood-related tasks.
East Moline has two staff on each of its three shifts monitoring the pumps’ operation and checking the flood walls for leaks or weak points, Lambrecht said. The cost has been about 1,200 hours of overtime at a cost of about $40,000.