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Officials, citing treatment system issues, proposing sump pump inspections

WILLMAR -- City officials are proposing a sump pump inspection program to reduce the amount of clear water entering and overtaxing the wastewater treatment system.

Officials say the inspection program is needed because excess clear water is taking up the hydraulic capacity of the treatment system. The inspection program would include the Ortenblad and Country Club Drive areas where excess clear water has caused numerous wastewater bypasses in recent years.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says a bypass occurs when the wastewater system breaks down or is overwhelmed by flooding, and untreated wastewater must be discharged to the environment. Bypassing sometimes is used as a "safety valve'' to keep sewage from backing up into homes, according to MPCA.

The agency says homeowners can help reduce the need for bypassing by making sure they're not putting excess clear water into the system. In late March, the city asked homeowners to redirect their sump pumps because the system was being stressed.

Public Works Director Holly Wilson says MPCA discourages bypasses. Wilson said too many bypasses could result in a moratorium on growth that serves a sewer line or pumping station.

Wilson said city ordinance prohibits connecting a sump pump to the sanitary sewer without a permit. Sump pumps can only be connected to the wastewater system from November through March with a permit. After March, sump pumps are to be directed outside, she said.

Wilson recommended the inspection program to the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee this week. Committee members agreed to support the program and voted to accept the low bid of $29,000 from Bolton & Menk Inc. of Willmar to develop an educational and inspection program. The recommendation will be considered by the council on June 6.

As part of the program, homeowners will be asked to allow an inspector in their homes to determine if their sump pumps comply with city ordinance. City Administrator Michael Schmit said the city had an earlier program and hired interns as inspectors. But he said city inspectors don't have time to perform the inspections.

A higher bid of $40,300 was received from Bollig Inc. of Willmar to develop the program.

To pay for the program, the committee approved Wilson's recommendation to re-appropriate $29,000 from the wastewater treatment general operating budget.

The funds are part of a $476,000 line item that had originally been designated for decommissioning the Ortenblad and Arby's lift stations. However, the funds became available after the council rolled the lift station work into the decommissioning project at the former wastewater treatment plant.

In other business, the committee approved a $28,890 price quote from Hansen Concrete of Spicer to move the Grind Skateboard Park from the location next to Washington School to a spot at South Swansson Field now occupied by an unused tennis court.

The price quote includes the cost of constructing a concrete slab.

Schmit said the Willmar School District has agreed to pay $25,000 toward the cost and the city will erect the fence.

To make up the $3,890 difference between the school district's contribution and the price quote, he said the school district will be asked to increase its commitment or money will be requested from the Community Education and Recreation Department.

If additional money is not available from either source, the size of the slab will be reduced to fit the $25,000 budget, said Schmit.

The skateboard park is being moved because Affiliated Community Medical Centers bought the Washington School property that includes the skateboard park site.

Other price quotes were obtained from Jerry Nelson Construction of Pennock, $32,000; and Concrete FX of Pennock, $34,865.

If sufficient funding is found, the new site will have a 100-foot by 100-foot concrete slab compared with the current 80-foot by 100-foot slab at the Washington School site.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150