CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Clarksville Gas & Water employees vividly recall the weekend leading up to Monday, May 3, 2010, when extreme rainfall caused the historic Flood of 2010.
Wastewater treatment plant workers remember standing by helplessly as floodwaters from the swollen Cumberland and Red rivers breached the plant’s levees. It was a devastating sight for them as their workplace and home away from home went under water. Floodwaters also had inundated pump stations in the wastewater collection system throughout Clarksville.
Prior to the levee breach, wastewater treatment staff had vigilantly monitored rising river levels and began moving equipment to safe ground. As the Cumberland River surged toward a level of more than 60 feet, managers notified the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and began an emergency action plan to shut down and evacuate the plant.
Soon after, the wastewater plant was inundated. The following days of disaster recovery proved to be the biggest challenge that plant employees would witness in their careers. When floodwaters receded, the plant’s levee acted as a bowl and held the water, requiring around-the-clock pumping. CGW hired two engineering firms and began assessing the damage to the plant and collection system.
The goal was to protect public health by working with TDEC to quickly restore emergency wastewater treatment. Managers and employees pulled together to reestablish primary treatment within 10 days of the shutdown. It took another three months to bring secondary treatment online.
The floodwaters also damaged some of the collection system’s pumping stations. Temporary bypass pumps were brought in to help keep the flow of wastewater moving while the stations were being rebuilt.
“Employees worked long hours under very adverse circumstances to ensure the wastewater treatment plant’s vital processes were restored expediently for public safety after the 2010 flood. We continue to applaud them for their selfless efforts,” said Mark Riggins, Gas & Water General Manager. “It was a monumental effort by Gas & Water managers, employees and City officials working in concert with TDEC and FEMA over several years to bring the plant to its modern and more effective treatment process.”
The Clarksville wastewater treatment plant is approved for treating 25 million gallons per day (MGD) and has the ability to peak for short periods at 75 MGD. It was initially built in 1963 and has undergone a number of upgrades, with the most recent occurring after the 2010 flood. The current average daily demand is approximately 13 MGD during dry weather and peaks in the mid 60’s MGD during wet weather. The wastewater collection system consists of 806 miles of gravity mains, 231 lift stations, 177 miles of force (pressure) mains, and 19,079 manholes.
Flooding at the Clarksville wastewater treatment plant in May 2010.
An aerial view of the Clarksville wastewater treatment plant during the Flood of 2010.
The plant after reconstruction.