Last week, the Northeastern United States was hit with the worst flooding the area has seen in 70 years. New Hampshire and Massachusetts, among other states, were forced to evacuate residents as roads, bridges, dams, and even wastewater treatment facilities were damaged by torrential rains and overflowing rivers.
According to a USA Today report, more than 600 roads in New Hampshire were damaged or destroyed, while in Maine, flooding washed out dozens of roads and bridges. Further, water breached a dam in Webster, N.H., on May 15, releasing millions of gallons of water and threatening to drain the lake.
Flooding also plagued sewage systems and wastewater treatment plants. Following the historical rainfalls, several water treatment facilities along the upper Merrimack River reported failures, according to an Associated Press report in the Boston Globe.
For instance, a 42-inch wastewater main in Haverhill, Mass., failed, releasing approximately 35 million gallons of raw sewage per day into the river. The damaged section has been bypassed temporarily, while crews work to replace about 2 miles of pipe near the Haverhilll facility.
Additionally, floodwaters from a regional facility in Lawrence, Mass., threatened to spill 115 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the Merrimack River, the report said. Despite these and other problems, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney said that none of the drinking water supplies downstream were threatened. However, he did warn residents not to venture into the river or nearby tributaries to avoid contamination.
"The DEP [Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection] will be taking soundings and evaluating whether, in fact, the dilution factor is high enough to keep serious environmental damage from occurring, or whether, in fact, we have damage that we’ll need to take corrective action," Gov. Romney said during a May 15 press conference.