Citizens Energy Group warning residents about raw sewage overflow after heavy rainfall

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Citizens Energy Group is warning Indianapolis area residents to stay away from waterways due to raw sewage overflows.

The continuous rainstorms this week caused about 700 million gallons of raw sewage to overflow into the White River and its tributaries. That includes Fall Creek.

Citizens Energy Group Spokesperson Dan Considine said it only takes a quarter of an inch of rain to fill up the current systems. He said sewage overflow happens from time to time, but a rain event like this causing their systems to overflow in high amounts only happens about every 10 years.

"The bad thing about an event like, the rivers and streams are getting outside their banks," Considine said. "You’ve got flood waters spreading out over fields, even into neighborhoods, in some cases onto roads and that flood water has sewage in it."

The biggest concern with raw sewage is E. Coli. Citizens Energy Group and health professionals are warning residents to not go near or touch flood waters.

"If they have open sores on their feet, that could possibly lead to more serious infection, if there’s any wading in the water, people fishing in the water, canoeing," explained Marion County Public Health Department Water Quality Manager Adam Rickert.

The city's current overflow system is more than 100 years old. It's the reason overflow goes straight into the White River. Citizens Energy Group is continuing their work on DigIndy. The project will create 28 miles of underground tunnels that will store overflow water, preventing the runoff from immediately spilling into the river.

Considine said once the system is complete, about 97% of sewer overflows will be prevented. The first phase, about nine miles on the city's south side will be finished by the end of this year. The remainder of the project will be complete by 2025.

The Marion County Public Health Department is working on signage for creeks, streams and rivers. The signs will have the waterways name, as well as a "use caution" warning stating: "contact with water may pose risk."

The signs will encourage people to visit the health department website to see more on water quality. The health department conducts regular tests on the water and posts the results on the website. You can find out more by clicking here.

You can find out more about the DigIndy project by clicking here.

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