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Sewage routed into Mississippi By PERRY BEEMAN Register Staff Writer 04/21/2001 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Davenport, Ia. - Rising floodwaters are forcing cities along the Mississippi River to dump million of gallons of sewage into the river to take pressure off overloaded treatment plants.
The move has sparked public health fears that are being fanned by a shortage of the tetanus vaccine. A state health official says people working in and around the floodwater aren't necessarily at risk of an infectious disease, but warned residents to wash their hands before eating or drinking.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported finding some contaminated private wells in Scott County. Health officials shipped bottled water to two dozen families in the Pleasant Valley area. Health officials arranged for free disinfection and water tests for 150 wells. Larry Linnenbrink, the county's environmental health coordinator, said virtually all private wells that were flooded in 1993 showed unsafe bacteria levels. "We know they are going to be unsafe" this year, he said.
Joe Sanfilippo of the resource department's Manchester field office said the rapidly moving water will make the sewage less of a problem.
The huge amount of water rushing down the river dilutes the chemicals, fertilizers, sewage and other contaminants, he said. The 60 million gallons of untreated sewage that Davenport is piping into the river is a tiny part of the 151 billion gallons rushing past Davenport daily.
County and state health officials told physicians to reserve scarce tetanus shots for those who need them most. Supplies of the shots have dwindled after the loss of a major manufacturer, they said.
County and private medical offices were told to give priority to people who have been wounded or who are working in a situation where they are likely to be cut.
Jackie Hall of the Scott County Health Department said floodwater doesn't increase the risk of getting the organism that causes tetanus, a sometimes fatal blood infection that causes muscle spasms and rigidity.
The organism is found in water or soil, including sand, she said. When the vaccine is plentiful, the county vaccinates all sandbaggers and relief workers, said Roma Taylor, the county's clinical services coordinator.
Like many of the sandbaggers working in downtown Davenport on Friday, Jacob Gregory already had his tetanus shot. Gregory, 19, is in Davenport for mission work on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Pleasant Grove, Utah, native said he has enjoyed trading his white dress shirt and tie for a chance to serve Davenport residents by loading and tossing sandbags, although "my back is shot."
The Iowa-American Water Co., which provides drinking water to 160,000 people in the Quad Cities and Clinton areas, is chlorinating drinking water three times rather than the usual two, said spokeswoman Lisa Reisen. A massive sand-bagging effort by the National Guard, contractors and volunteers leaves the company confident that the plant will remain in operation until the water recedes, she said.
In East Dubuque, Ill., about 100 residents were evacuated about 5 p.m. Friday after a sewer line broke there. Residents were allowed back into their homes about 8:30 p.m.
More about it
TAKING A LOOK: Gov. Tom Vilsack heads to eastern Iowa today to observe flood-fighting efforts. Vilsack will be in the Camanche area, joined by the state"s top emergency official, Ellen Gordon. Vilsack has issued a disaster proclamation for 10 counties along the river, putting them in line for state and federal money to help pay for cleanup.
RISING WATERS: Higher crest sends McGregor scrambling.
INFORMATION: Flood forecast, survival kit, watches and warnings, and how to protect your home.
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