Omaha Forced To Dump Sewage Into Missouri River
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
(Soundbite of power saw)
M: Set these up and get them in the right place.
ROBYN WISCH: Ladd Lyons is building a makeshift bar at the Tailgate Tent outside Omaha's brand-new baseball stadium. The College World Series ended its run last year at Rosenblatt Stadium, its old home for 50 years. It's now held at a new ballpark, surrounded by hotels and restaurants.
M: We're expecting record crowds.
WISCH: Steve Lindsey has a food stand under a large tent just outside the front gates.
M: I'm excited. And when you look around, everything's bright, shiny and new, and I think people are - it's going to be a great first experience in the new stadium forum. I'm happy.
WISCH: But the fresh start to the College World Series is not so fresh just a couple of blocks north. Dirty, fetid water is bubbling under the surface.
M: Sunday afternoon around 4 o'clock was when we first noticed the gushing water, and at some points it was going clear across the street.
WISCH: While other communities along the rising Missouri are dealing with breached levees, Omaha is more concerned with raw sewage. The city is currently dumping its untreated sewage into the river. In front of his Omaha art studio, Les Bruning(ph) is seeing the effects of the city's overworked combined sewer system.
M: They came out and sandbagged around so that the sewer water coming out of the sewer flowed over and went down the storm sewer. Well, it affects our business because, you know, people think they don't want to get caught in a flood and they don't want to smell the sewer. So...
M: Good morning. This is the situation status report for the Missouri River Command...
WISCH: City officials have been giving daily updates on water levels and preparations. Here's Assistant Fire Chief Dan Stolinski.
M: The Missouri River is currently at 33.11 feet. Flood stage is 29 feet. The estimates show by Sunday evening, the 19th, the river will be at 33.3 feet.
(SOUNDBITE OF WATER RUNNING)
WISCH: I'm standing about as close to the Missouri River as you can get these days. The water is so high and the current is just moving incredibly quickly. But Omaha is protected by a 42 foot levee that was built the last time the water got this high.
M: We owe a great deal of gratitude to Mayor Johnny Rosenblatt and the city leaders in 1955, who built this levee on the Omaha side.
WISCH: That's Omaha Mayor, Jim Suttle.
M: They built it very, very soundly. Now since then, we've been maintaining it, and that's why our levee's working for us.
WISCH: Back at the Tailgate Tent, even if there's the occasional waft of sewage outside the stadium, marketing manager Stacy Leners says the games will go on.
M: We'll keep plugging away and enjoy the games, and deal with the smell. There's not much we can do about that.
WISCH: For NPR News, I'm Robyn Wisch in Omaha.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
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