A fire late Friday morning at the Carlisle wastewater treatment plant destroyed an emergency generator and forced borough officials to impose temporary restrictions on water usage.
The Carlisle Regional Water Pollution Control Facility at 54 N. Middlesex Road lost power Thursday night after a severe thunderstorm packing high winds blew through the area and knocked down electrical lines to the facility.
Borough Manager Steve Hietsch said the plant operated on emergency power for about 12 hours before the generator caught fire just before noon on Friday. By 1 p.m., the borough issued an advisory to sewer customers to stop any water usage that is not absolutely necessary.
The restrictions applied not only to the borough, but to customers in every municipality served by the plant including the townships of South Middleton, North Middleton, Middlesex and Silver Spring.
While drinking water was safe for consumption, the advisory warned that sending any water down the drain, toilet or shower could overload the treatment plant and back up sewage through the system and eventually into homes and businesses.
At 4:30 p.m., the borough posted an update on its website clarifying unnecessary usage included water used for laundry, dishwashing and car washing. Just under three hours later, at 7:20 p.m., the borough issued a statement that power had been restored to the plant and that customers could resume normal patterns of water consumption.
Hietsch spent much of Friday monitoring the emergency at the plant, which required the borough to rent a back-up generator to restore partial power to the sewage treatment system. By about 7 p.m., he was advised by PPL officials that commercial power to the facility was being restored.
Not only was the generator destroyed, but several electrical panels at the plant were also damaged in the fire, making it hard for the electric company to fully restore power, Hietsch said. The borough also had bring in other equipment to pump out the wet well.
Between the damage and equipment rental, Hietsch is expecting a large expense but had no cost estimate Friday night. "We are hoping this is covered by insurance," Hietsch said. "We are going through a treatment plant upgrade."
The original plan was to maintain the old emergency generator as a back-up to a new generator, but with the old generator destroyed by fire there will be no back-up, Hietsch said.
No tornado verification
Following Thursday's storm, the National Weather Service dispatched a team to investigate a reported sighting of a tornado outside Carlisle. As of 9 p.m. Friday, that team had yet to report its findings, said Greg Devoir, a NWS meteorologist. "We have no verification of a tornado."
The NWS was predicting a mostly cloudy day today with a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Highs will be in the lower 80s with lows overnight Saturday in the lower 60s.
Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny and humid with highs in the mid-80s during the day before the sky turns cloudy and temperatures fall to the mid-60s overnight Sunday. The forecast for Memorial Day is hot and humid with highs in the lower 90s.
As of 10:30 p.m. Friday, PP&L reported there were 8,322 customers throughout Cumberland County without power while the utility had restored electricity to 23,919 customers across the county since Thursday's storm.
The hardest hit areas of Cumberland County were East Pennsboro Township with 11,714 customers out of power at the storm's peak and Silver Spring Township with 4,961 customers out of power at the peak.