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MSD will soon be treating waste again after power failure

Two temporary 1.5-megawatt generators are being set up at the Mill Creek electric substation on March 7.
Metropolitan Sewer District
Two temporary 1.5-megawatt generators are being set up at the Mill Creek electric substation on March 7.

Metropolitan Sewer District has hooked up portable generators at the Mill Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and will soon be treating waste again. Partially treated and untreated waste has been released into the Mill Creek and the Ohio River since Sunday.

"Anything we have been able to do over the last few days to mitigate and to manage the flow that would otherwise be coming to this plant we have been doing," says Diana Christy, director of MSD. "We do have certain locations where we have storage and other treatment upstream so we've done everything possible to divert flow, or to reduce flow, to the treatment plant.”

In the meantime, the temporary generators should be hooked up and running by Tuesday night, and MSD will bring the plant back up to speed slowly. MSD is also re-hooking up the old generator that was offline.

Christy is hopeful the utility won't be fined. She says MSD acted quickly after Sunday's power failure and has worked closely with the Ohio EPA.

"What is on our side right now is we have a lot of flow. Both the Mill Creek and the Ohio River have a lot of flow. We had a lot of rain last week," she says. "Our rivers do naturally dilute what is being discharged into them, and we do hope there is no lasting impact."

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The utility was in the process of replacing its two transformers, when one of them "catastrophically" failed, she says.

"This new transformer that had already been connected, it had been running for a period of time — several weeks — to lead us to begin disconnection of the other transformer to complete the project," Christy says. "So that is why the other transformer was not immediately available at the time of this failure."

She says MSD has ordered portable generators until the backup transformer can be reconnected. That's expected to take a few weeks.

Christy says local drinking water isn't threatened, because intake valves are far upstream from the Mill Creek treatment plant.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.