COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX)- 150 million gallons of sewage per day.
That's what would have flowed into Columbia streets and neighborhoods during the October flood without four unlikely heroes.
Four workers at the city's water treatment plant, to be exact.
"All of us are environmentalists at heart and we want to protect the environment and protect the citizens of Columbia so it really wasn’t a choice for us," Adrian Martin said.
Martin is one of the four employees who refused to leave the plant during the flood, even after DHEC ordered everyone to get out.
"DHEC called and said go ahead and evacuate, just shut everything off and leave," Ashley Dove, another one of the four, recalled. "Of course we took that seriously, but we weren’t going to let it go down like that. It would have been an environmental catastrophe."
Ashley Dove, James Foust, Adrian Martin, and Brandon Wilcox were the only ones in the plant. as deadly waters rushed closer, they worked frantically to contain hundreds of tons of sewage.
"Had the plant shut down, there would have been 150 million some odd gallons a day flowing into the Congaree river, and we weren’t going to allow that to happen," Martin said. "It would have flooded most of downtown Columbia, flooded a great portion of the greater Columbia area."
But because they risked their lives to stay, not a single drop spilled into the city.
"We had no cots, no blankets, we were sleeping on chairs, on the floor," Martin said. "We honestly lived here for five days, we maybe got an hour of sleep a night."
Despite their bravery, they all insist they were just doing their job.
"We took this job not for the money, we took this job because of our love for the environment," Dove said.
The four have just been awarded the Water Environment Federation's national"Water Heroes" award. They will be honored in New Orleans on September 27th at the National Water Environment Federation conference.