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Explosion nearly sent raw sewage up through Petersburg manholes

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The City of Petersburg avoided a "minor environmental disaster" after the main wastewater pumping station lost two of its three pumps Monday night, according to Petersburg Interim City Manager Tom Tyrrell.  City workers scrambled to get the wastewater pumping station back on line.

"Within a couple of hours, all of the wastewater that flows into the main pumping station would have been backed up into the system and would have started going out of the manhole covers in the city," Tyrrell said. "That would have been raw waste flowing into the Appomattox from the storm drains."

Tyrrell blamed the pump power outages on his city's aging infrastructure.

"This building is about 50 years old, but we have elements of this water system that are over 200 years old," he said. "A lot of that stuff is still working, but there’s a lot that needs to be repaired, maintained, replaced, and over the last few decades we have not committed the resources in sufficient priority to fund these things."

Nearby businesses are relieved to know city workers were able to keep raw sewage from spilling into the Appomattox and into the up and coming area of Petersburg. Tre Williams, who runs Croaker’s Spot, doesn’t want to think of a huge headache it could have caused.

"Anything as far as raw sewage affects health -- don’t want to deal with it," Williams said. "I’m glad they got to it as fast as they did. I just hope they can get the infrastructure fixed and we don’t have to deal with these types of things over and over again bc we plan to be here for a while."

Tyrrell said fixing the equipment that failed Monday night would cost the city roughly $50,000.

He said Petersburg City Council's recent decision to raise utility rates would help Petersburg pay for infrastructure upgrades he said the city needed.