High flows pushing sewer lift stations to top capacityJamestown residents are being asked to limit the amount of water entering the sanitary sewer system in an effort to avoid having to discharge sewage directly into the James River. Discharging sewage into the river would be a violation of North Dakota law.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown residents are being asked to limit the amount of water entering the sanitary sewer system in an effort to avoid having to discharge sewage directly into the James River. Discharging sewage into the river would be a violation of North Dakota law.
The request came Wednesday from the Jamestown engineer’s office. The situation began Sunday after three rain showers dropped nearly 3 inches of rain in the area. With the ground saturated with water, infiltration into the sewer pipes increased.
The issue is not the total amount of sewage going through the Jamestown main lift station but the distribution of the sewage through the city’s network of lift stations.
“There are areas of town that are bottlenecks,” said Steve Suko, utility operations director. “Even if you are in an area of town away from the problem you are contributing to problems in other areas.”
Suko said the city’s main lift station is handling about 7.5 million gallons of waste per day. This is within its capabilities. However, several of the city’s lift stations are running at capacity to carry the waste water to the main lift station.
The city is asking residents to reduce all water going into the sanitary sewer system. This includes a continuation of the odd/even system of water usage and simple conservation steps like taking shorter showers and not running water before filling a glass or while brushing teeth.
Residents in odd-numbered homes are asked to perform heavy water-use tasks such using a dishwasher or doing laundry on odd-numbered days. Residents in even-numbered homes should perform the same tasks on even-numbered days.
Other water sources going into the sewer include air conditioners and dehumidifiers, Suko said. These water sources should be dumped outside rather than in the sewer system. The city is also reminding residents it is against local ordinances to run the discharge of a sump pump into the sanitary sewer system. Lawn watering and outdoor water use are not impacted.
“It doesn’t matter what part of town you’re in,” Suko said. “Be as conservative with waste water as possible. Minimize the sanitary sewer usage.”
The goal is to avoid a repeat of 2009 when Jamestown was forced to pump sewage directly from lift stations into the river.
“The last resort would be to pump into the river,” Suko said. “Another rain would prompt that type of decision.”
Suko said a worst-case scenario would include a thunderstorm dropping heavy rain on Jamestown while at the same time knocking out electrical power necessary to operate the lift station pumps.
The city has positioned pumps at four locations in case that decision is necessary.
“That would not be our desired option,” said Dennis Fewless, director, water quality division, North Dakota Department of Health. “But after they’ve exhausted all options, rather than have sewage backup into basements, this is the best option.”
Fewless said the amount of groundwater infiltrating into the sewage pipes dilutes the waste materials.
“We monitored the situation in 2009,” he said. “Within a few miles the sewage was undetectable in the river.”
Suko said the situation is likely to continue for some time.
“The rules stay in place until the weather dries and the releases from the reservoirs go down,” he said. “It seems to be the combination of the two we can’t take.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org