Flooding in Rhode Island (10 images)

WARWICK, R.I., April 1 (UPI) -- Rhode Island's Pawtuxet Valley has been contaminated by millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into floodwaters, officials say.

The environmental mess continued Wednesday as sewage treatment plants in Warwick and West Warwick remained inundated by the high waters and a major sewage pumping station in Cranston failed, The Providence (R.I.) Journal reported.

"The Pawtuxet River, from whatever sources, is being impacted by raw wastewater," said William Patenaude, an engineer at the state Department of Environmental Management who coordinates local sewer system programs. "This might be a historic first. This is obviously a situation beyond anything we're used to dealing with."

People in Warwick and other communities are being asked to conserve water by not taking showers, flushing toilets only when necessary and not running dishwashers or washing machines, the newspaper said.

"You had such a great number of businesses that were caught off guard; they didn't take steps to prevent this from happening," said Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation in Washington. "So it's going to be a longer recovery period."

USA Today reported the flood levels are unprecedented since Rhode Island began keeping records in the 1870s.

Updated: April 2, 2010 at 10:46 AM
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Flood waters engulf the cars and offices of Village Collision and Automed Auto Sales on Aster Road in West Warwick, Rhode Island on April 1, 2010. The state received record rainfall earlier in the week causing flooding in many areas. UPI/Matthew Healey
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