Saturday, July 20, 2013

BREAKING: Night's storm releases 3 million gallons of sewage into Grand River, closes parks, damages trails

The last Paul Palaygi saw of the popular Pickle Bill's Restaurant party barge was of the structure being carried by heavy currents past the equally iconic Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse on its way into Lake Erie.

Palaygi is the executive director of Lake Metroparks and this morning was on an inspection tour of the agency's properties following last night's summer storm event.

Yet the unintended breaking loose of the party barge was the less serious side to the overnight storm event. An over-whelmed waste-water system resulted in the release of three million gallons of untreated swage into the Grand River.
Heavy rains after midnight choked ditches and small feeder streams along with both the Chagrin and Grand rivers. Up to six inches of rain fell in a matter of little more than six hours over portions of Lake County.

That amount of rain falling in such a short span atop ground all ready well saturated from a near steady diet of showers this summer had no where else to go but into every watery course it could find.

In turn that raised by a considerable degree the levels of both the Chagrin and Grand rivers, the latter of which was where the party barge had been anchored approximately one mile upstream from Lake Erie.

And Palaygi was there to capture the moment with his cell phone's camera mode as the barge slipped out of the Grand River Harbor and into Lake Erie.

Yet while the sight and thought of Pickle Bill's floating party barge once again being torn from its Grand River roots may seem a bit humorous – and let's face it, it is – far more concerned were the boat owners, marinas and residents who live along the two Lake Erie tributaries.

After all, last night's deluge comes just one week shy of the historic July 27, 2006 Lake County storm event that ultimately cost $30 million in property damage, displaced 600 people and altered the course and banks of not only the two rivers but their feeder creeks as well.

Last night's heavy rains likewise overwhelmed waste water systems. Up to three million gallons of raw sewage bypassed the normal containment and treatment process and was diverted into the Grand River at the Painesville waste water treatment plant just upstream from North St. Clair Street.
“We were asked by the Lake County Health Department to post an advisory for Fairport Harbor beach because of the sewage release,” said Brian Fowler, the agency's chief of outdoors education.

Once daylight came this morning and the rains eased, property owners, boaters, marina operators, city, county and state road departments along with Lake Metroparks were better able to assess damage and disruption.

Which, as things are turning out, weren't nearly as severe as initial worries played on peoples' minds.

On the Chagrin River by late morning the water level at the Lake Shore Boulevard bridge in Eastlake had dropped by about 30 inches, said one boat owner who keeps his craft tied to the docks at East Bank Marina.
“I didn't lose anything and once the water dropped we were able to wash the mud off the docks and walkways,” the unidentified boater said as he continued to up following the river's rise and subsequent fall.

And boat owners along with marina operators on the Grand River were conducting similar reconnaissance and assessment missions.

So was Palaygi who notes the agency has temporarily closed several parks due to flooding. Among them are Mason's Landing in Perry Township, Beaty Landing in Painesville, Helen Hazen Wyman Park in Concord-Painesville Township, Indian Point Park-Lower Lot in Leroy Township (owing to flooding of Vrooman and Seeley roads), and the picnic pavilion area at Gully Brook Park in Willoughby-Willoughby Hills

Of more concern to the parks system is expected trail damage. Such destruction came from wash-outs, felled trees and debris that gathered itself along impacted trails, says the agency's director of operations, John Grantham.

“We have a lot of washed-out trails, and that's going to keep our crews busy for a while in repairing them,” Grantham said.

Also shut closed at the moment is Willoughby's Daniels Park as well as Headlands Beach State Park.

While the bulk of the state park is located in Painesville Townhip its entrance is found in Mentor.

And here Blackbrook Creek flows through a couple of culverts which are unable to handle the excess run-off. As a result, the low-lying park entrance and adjacent parking lots are under water.

Similarly Coast Guard Road that runs parallel to the park on the east side is flooded at a particularly low-lying area opposite the entrance to the Morton Salt mine. This flooding is prevent civilian access to the Coast Guard station though one of the unit's heavy-duty 4-wheel drive truck did plow its way through the inundated roadway, the water creeping up almost to the vehicle's grillwork.

“Well, you could always go out and get Pickle Bill's party barge,” a Coast Guard member said from the cab of the truck.

No thanks. I'll let Paul Palaygi take care of that mission. I had enough fun for the day, especially since National Weather Service radar is indicating the possibility of more rain arriving from the southwest.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

1 comment:

  1. Is this true? (3mil waste into GR) Why isn't it published anywhere else?