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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Flooding causes treatment plant woes

August 6th, 2012 10:06 pm by John Thompson

Flooding causes treatment plant woes

ELIZABETHTON — While the worst flooding from Sunday evening’s storm affected Johnson City and Washington County, there was also some significant problems in Elizabethton and Carter County.
“The good news is there were no water rescues and no deaths or injuries reported,” Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Worley said Monday.
Worley met with officials with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency during the day and was obtaining data on the extent of the damage and the costs.
He met with the Health and Welfare Committee of the Carter County Commission on Monday night and gave a report on the storm’s impact. He said the storm struck the county around 6 p.m. and torrents of rain lasted about an hour and a half. He said the storm hit Johnson City, Elizabethton and went on into Johnson County. He said Roan Mountain was spared the brunt of the storm.
Some of the worst damage was done to county roads. Sycamore Shoals Drive, on which the city of Elizabethton’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and the city and county’s animal control shelter are located, was one road that sustained heavy damage in the storm.
Part of the road collapsed into a sinkhole he estimated to be 15 feet deep. Jenkins Hollow Road also sustained heavy damage from washouts.
Worley said Milligan College also had a lot of flooding and some of the playing fields were saturated. School officials were hoping to get the fields dried out in time for the University of Tennessee football team’s visit later this week.
He said the Carter County Highway Department worked most of the night getting the roads repaired. Worley said the 911 dispatchers deserved praise and both the city and county law enforcement officers “did a very good job.”
Johann Coetzee, director of utilities for the city of Elizabethton, said about 400 customers of the Elizabethton Electric System lost service during the storm, but the outages were all sporadic and there were no widespread or long outages.
The city’s wastewater treatment plant experienced the most problems from the storm. Coetzee said the city has reported to the state that there were five violations of raw sewage being released because of the storm.
He said his staff worked throughout the night to keep things operating. Although there were no electrical outages with the wastewater system, the storm overwhelmed the electronic controls in one small station. Among other tasks, the men took over operations from automated controls during the night.
Coetzee said his monitors indicated 4.1 inches of rain fell at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in an hour. “That is an estimate because our instruments were off the scale at that point.”
In addition to the county roads that Worley reported as damaged, Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins said several other roads were damaged. Those roads included Canter Road, Danny Mathis Drive, Brimer Road, Rittertown Road, Toll Branch Road and Alf Taylor Road.
His men worked much of the night and were back on the scene the next morning making repairs.
Danny Hilbert, director of the Elizabethton Street and Sanitation Department, said the city’s streets remained in good shape. His crews worked with the police during the night to help direct traffic around streets blocked by flooding.
Hilbert said blocked streets included Hudson, Bemberg, Dakota and Happy Valley.
“When you have that much rain, the storm drains will back up,” Hilbert said.
In addition to the damage from water, there was also one house that was reportedly destroyed by a fire after it was struck by lightning.
Billy Harrell of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department said the home of Lewis Markam at 250 Markam Place was engulfed in flames when he arrived on the scene around 7:30 p.m.
Markam told Harrell he had left during the storm because his daughter’s car had quit in Johnson City during the heavy rain there. He had gone to rescue her and when he arrived back at his home he found it on fire.

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