Sioux Falls, SD
Contact with sewage can have serious health consequence, and even the thought of it can turn some stomachs.
That's why this week's release of raw sewage into the Big Sioux River by the city of Sioux Falls attracted so much attention.
But this isn't the first time that's happened. In fact, just last summer, the city was pumping sewage into the river.
With five plus inches of rain pounding Sioux Falls early Wednesday morning, there was water everywhere. That included an extra rush into the city's sanitary sewer system. In the afternoon, city leaders made the choice to release some of that sewage into the rain swollen Big Sioux River.
"This is a real health issue for our town. If you have sewage backing up into people's homes, there's really nothing worse than that," Mayor Mike Huether said.
Mayor Mike Huether says the release into the river prevented the sewage from backing up into homes. But he also recognizes it's not a perfect solution.
“I'm a sportsman. I love to fish. I love to hunt and I also am the leader of this city. The last thing we want to do is discharge any raw sewage into a body of water like the Big Sioux," Huether said.
Mayor Huether adds that this week’s sewer situation is far different than the sewage emergency of 2010. Namely because this week's situation was very short lived.
The release stopped on Wednesday just hours after it started. The mayor says that's because progress on the city's sewer system is being made all around town. Three years worth of work will be completed this summer alone.
"When we're done this year as well as tackle a few more projects next year, we're going to be much stronger that we've ever been. Then, Mother Nature, bring it on," Huether said.
And Huether hopes that will mean city leaders won't have to choose between destroying basements and releasing wastewater into the river.
This year, the city used a temporary disinfection system where they were releasing the raw sewage in an effort to decrease the amount of bacteria.