Grand Rapids using sandbags to keep sewage from Grand River
Updated: Friday, April 19 2013, 08:23 PM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - At this hour in Grand Rapids, people are using sand bags to prevent sewage from spilling into the Grand River.
The Grand River is just over 20 feet high, and as a precaution, the city has shut down the historic 6th Street Bridge.
We've seen branches and parts of trees raging downstream, as now the flood walls are as high as 26 feet, 6 inches.
City leaders remain confident that the higher flood walls will protect residents.
Grand Rapids native Carolyn Miller stood in awe, watching the Grand River swallow staircases and rise to greet office workers outside their windows.
"It's striking from a standpoint here, because we're okay," Miller said. "But if I were living downstream along the banks in a flood zone, I think I'd be really worried this could be catastrophic downstream."
The rising water level, however, is not what city leaders fear most.
"What I am concerned about is the backup of storm water on the streets in basements, in neighborhoods, throughout the city, especially some of the low areas," said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.
Mayor Heartwell is asking people to cut back on water consumption to alleviate stress on the system.
"You can do that by simply putting off doing the laundry until after Monday, hold the dishwasher until after Monday, limit the showers," he suggested.
Another major concern is the city's waste water treatment plant.
"If that floods, every person in the city is likely to have a minor inconvenience," said Daniel Schoonmaker with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. "They won't really be able to use their toilet and the city itself is going to have an incredible catastrophe, both environmental and financial."
That's why hundreds of volunteers are helping make sandbags that will be placed along the flood wall, and especially around the plant.
Mayor Heartwell explained that storm water from the Lansing/Jackson area is still working its way west toward us, which is why the crest isn't expected until Monday.