Launch Slideshow

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Chasing the Crest

Chasing the Crest

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    Due to its convenient location, the capped Cedar Rapids-Linn County Landfill Site 1 was reopened to accept flood debris. Photo: Z-Comm/Terex

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    Since wastewater was being discharged directly into the Cedar River, a key focus was on restoring primary treatment to remove suspended solids and floating debris. Sitting right in the middle of the Cedar River, the Veteran's Memorial Building on Mays Island suffered major damage, even to portions above the 500-year floodplain. Photo: Z-Comm

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    Keeping public order was the first priority. The receding waters revealed devastation reaching in excess of 10 square miles. The river reached beyond the 100- and 500-year floodplains to inundate homes and businesses, some to the top of the first floor. Photo: Z-Comm

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    “If you were to extrapolate the numbers in a nonscientific way, this could approximate a 2,000- to 3,000-year flood,” says Cedar Rapids Public Works Director Dave Elgin. Photo: City of Cedar Rapids

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    Slabs of asphalt were stockpiled after water pushed up through sections of some city streets. Photo: Z-Comm/Terex

Meanwhile, although built above the 100-year floodplain, the wastewater treatment plant was inundated with water, leaving the electrical and other components inoperable but the structure intact. The initial drinking-water crisis gave city workers somewhat of a break because water usage was significantly curtailed, reducing the volume of untreated wastewater discharged into the river by about 60%. (Under normal conditions, fewer than 40 million gallons are treated daily.)

After the main lift station was repaired, trash pumps were deployed to prevent sewer backups into flooded houses. Within four weeks of the flooding, primary treatment was on line. The first stage of secondary treatment — removal of microscopic contamination — was in service by the end of July. The chlorination/dechlorination disinfection processes were anticipated to be back on line by late September.

“It will take some time, but we will rebuild to be stronger and more sustainable than before the flood,” Fagan says, pointing out that there were no flood-related deaths. “We're not just quickly building to close the gaps for the next two to three years. We're rebuilding for future generations.”

— Rick Zettler is a resident of Cedar Rapids and president of Z-Comm, a company specializing in construction and aggregate equipment marketing, public relations and freelance writing.

Web Extra

To learn how Cedar Rapids is paying its rebuilding expenses, visit the “article links” page under “resources” at www.pwmag.com.