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Linn County Facilities Director Garth Fagerbakke said one of the defining moments of the 2016 flood had to do with a sanitary sewer line.
Fagerbakke said in the wake of the 2008 flood, a valve was installed at the Public Service Center (PSC) to shut off the sanitary sewer line and prevent back up in the building.
In September, Fagerbakke and colleague Steve Nunemaker tested that valve as the Cedar River prepared to crest at 22 feet. They wanted to make sure the sanitary sewer line in the PSC would hold at that water level.
As they opened up the floor pit and climbed down, the two men were tense as Fagerbakke slowly opened the valve. They could hear water rushing through the pipe, but couldn’t tell which direction it was flowing. The water could be leaving the building, as hoped, or coming back into it. Initially, Fagerbakke said the sound was disheartening.
Fagerbakke slowly closed the valve and took the cover off the stand pipe next to it. Using a flashlight, the two men looked down the pipe to see where the water was. Then, Fagerbakke slowly opened the valve again to see which direction the water was moving. Much to their relief, they could see the water flow out of the building.
The two men looked at each other and smiled. The sanitary sewer was working exactly as planned.
Fagerbakke said the moment established a river level benchmark in the PSC for this and any future flood events.
It was another important lesson learned from the flood of 2008.