February 22, 2007

DNR Permit Requirements Mean Sewer Upgrades Likely for City

With actual measured flow at more than twice its designed rate, the city lagoon and waste water treatment center is forcing the City of Memphis to make some difficult decisions in the near future.

Representatives from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) met with the Memphis City Council and the City’s engineering firm, Allstate Consultants, P.C. to discuss the issue at a special meeting held February 15th.

The city’s three-cell lagoon was designed to serve a population of 2,143 residents with a designed flow of 214,300 gallons. Flow rates have been as high as 534,328 gallons, causing concern that the DNR’s five-year operating permit might be in jeopardy for the facility.

The permit is due to be renewed in 2009.

Much of the problem lies in the city’s 30-plus miles of aging sewer lines, the majority of which consist of clay tiles that allow ground and storm water to enter the system.

Water superintendent Dennis Howard said some infiltration also occurs in the city’s old brick manholes.

Another large problem is inflow of storm water at residences or commercial sites where downspouts and sump pumps are sending excessive amounts of water into the sewer system and then into the lagoon.

The city has received an estimate from wastewater engineering firm Wade & Associates, Inc. of Kansas City for an Infiltration / Inflow study. The I/I report would review the city’s sewer system and locate problem areas in an effort to bring the actual flow rates into the lagoon into check with the designed flow rates.

The cost of the study is $130,000 with an additional $115,000 in optional services that could push the project to a $250,000 price tag.

“It seems counter-productive to me to spend money like that on a study, that won’t do a thing to fix the problem,” said Mayor Roger Gosney. “All that money will do is get us a piece of paper that tells us about a problem that we are now very aware that we have,” said Mayor Roger Gosney.

Cary Sayre of Allstate stated that the city does not have enough money to fix the problem all at one time, especially considering the cost of the study.

He recommended the city consider segmenting the project based on watershed areas within the city limits and plan to do certain areas over designated time spans.

With less than $60,000 in the city’s sewer replacement fund, Mayor Gosney asked the DNR what the city can do to address the issue.

“Our permit is set to expire in 20 months,” Gosney said. “What can we do so that you will keep allowing our people to flush their toilets?’

Brenda Bethel of the Northeast Regional DNR office in Macon told the council that the state simply needs to see a logical plan of attack to address the problem.

Bethel said the heavy flow in the lagoon lessens detention time, which in turn decreases treatment time to remove pollutants from the water that is discharged into Gunns Branch and ultimately the Fabius River.

Bethel said when the permit renewal process begins DNR would like to see a capital improvement plan from the city for repairing and replacing the trouble spots as well as operations and maintenance plans for the city’s sewer system that will insure the flow rate is being addressed.

Bethel said in order for a municipality to qualify for state or federal funding for such projects, the city first must have user charges for the services that are no lower than two percent of the median household income. Currently the city’s water and sewer rates charged to customers are too low to meet such guidelines.

She indicated the city likely will have to raise rates to finance any capital improvement plans prepared for the DNR permit process.

The city will have to find funding sources to help pay for repairing or replacing the sewer lines. Sayre said there are several methods to repair the clay tiles. One popular plan places slip liners over the entire existing system, which seals the line from infiltration.

Howard said that storm water from downspouts may be the #1 problem.

Alderman Lucas Remley expressed concern with the ramifications of disconnecting what Howard said could be a higher number than anyone realizes of downspouts hooked directly to the sewer system. This storm water could cause flooding problems on streets and neighboring properties if not properly addressed.

Alderman Brian Brush asked what type of ramifications existed if the city were unable to meet the DNR requirements.

“Operating without a permit is a problem,” Bethel said. She added that DNR would be forced to take legal action.

Sayre discussed a similar instance in another community he represented informing the city of the high costs of fines and legal fees.

“You are not near there yet,” Sayre said, “but these types of situations can get costly if not addressed.”

The council agreed to spend the time leading up to the permitting process reviewing the city’s options over the next few months in an effort to meet the DNR’s request for plans and time frames for fixing the problem.

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