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Elkhorn looking to correct sewer problems

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Mike Heine
March 7, 2008
— The city is ready to fix a sewage backup problem that three times in two years has caused public works crews to pump sanitary sewage into storm sewers leading into a Delavan Lake tributary.

The Department of Natural Resources is reviewing city plans to redirect sanitary sewer flows near Prescott and Wisconsin streets to stop backups during rain storms, Elkhorn Administrator Sam Tapson said.


“We have three possible remedies,” Tapson said. “As far as we’re concerned, and as I’ve expressed to the DNR, we’re not going to pull the trigger on any of these until the (DNR) gives us the go ahead.”


The simplest solution is to divert the sewage into pipes with more capacity, Tapson said. That would cost about $10,000.


Other, more expensive, plans could include taking a lift station out of service and installing new pipes underground, Tapson said.


The city was ready to divert the sewage lines this spring but delayed plans after the DNR issued the city a violation notice.


The DNR was notified after town of Delavan officials learned city crews were pumping raw sewage into storm sewer lines this January.


"They don’t have the courtesy to say, ‘We’re dumping into Delavan Lake and Jackson Creek,’” Town Chairman Wayne Polzin said of Elkhorn officials. “We had to catch them at it.”


Tapson said the city occasionally has had to pump from full sewer lines into a more open line to prevent backups into basements.


The city discharged sanitary sewage into storm sewers four times since 1995, said Jim Dantuono, a DNR water program team leader.


"We’re taking it seriously,” Dantuono said. “We’re concerned about it. The city is and needs to do something about this as soon as possible.”


Dantuono said the sewage backups occur in severe rain or runoff events because sanitary sewer lines fill with runoff water, causing sewers to back up into basements.


Discharging sewage into lines leading to the lake, while discouraged by the DNR, probably did not cause a health concern with the lake. And while the water contained nutrients, the amount of solids added to the lake was negligible, Dantuono said.


STORYLINE

The issue: The city of Elkhorn discharged overflowing sanitary sewers into storm sewer pipes leading to tributary streams that run into Delavan Lake. The discharges were in 1995, March 2006, August 2007 and this January.


What’s new: The Department of Natural Resources is reviewing city plans to alleviate overworked pipes to prevent backups in homes near Wisconsin and Prescott streets on the city’s south side.


What’s next: Elkhorn and town of Delavan officials are meeting Thursday to discuss solutions to prevent future discharges.


“We understand the importance of that lake to this whole region. We’re not maliciously seeking to damage it,” Elkhorn Administrator Sam Tapson said.


DISCHARGE EVENTS

March 13-14, 2006: 1.5 million gallons of sanitary sewer water is pumped into Delavan Lake tributaries after 4 inches of rain falls the night of March 12.


Aug. 18-25, 2007: 1.6 million gallons of sanitary sewage is pumped into Delavan Lake tributaries after a rain storm. One pump runs for nearly eight days and another for 46 hours.


Jan 8, 2008: A January rainstorm causes significant snowmelt. A pump runs for 15 hours and discharges 440,000 gallons of sewage into a storm sewer leading into a Delavan Lake tributary.



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