Fewer issues: Upgrades to storm sewer reduced problems after heavy rains, mayor says
By Keith Norman The Jamestown Sun Jamestown officials are saying improvements to the sanitary sewer system made during 2013 and 2014 proved their worth during heavy rains in May. However, some homes did receive some damage. "Eleven or so homes th...
By Keith Norman
The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown officials are saying improvements to the sanitary sewer system made during 2013 and 2014 proved their worth during heavy rains in May. However, some homes did receive some damage.
“Eleven or so homes that really had one of the ickiest things happen to them, that is their sanitary sewer backing up,” said Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen. “It is not a reflection on the sanitary sewer overall in Jamestown.”
City Administrator Jeff Fuchs said 11 names and addresses were submitted to the city’s liability insurance carrier. The carrier would send out an adjuster to determine if there was any liability on the city’s part.
The 11 homes, all in southeast Jamestown, received sewage backup that was traced to the failure of temporary repairs to the sanitary sewer lines made after an adjacent storm sewer was cleaned this spring.
City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf said the upgrades made to the sanitary sewer system in 2013 and 2014 worked as planned.
Previously, groundwater infiltrated the sanitary sewer lines after heavy rains or during spring snowmelt. That water combined with sewage from the area and overwhelmed the lift stations during high water events in the past. This led to pumping water directly from the sanitary sewer system into the James River during spring flooding in 2009 and 2011.
The changes made to the sanitary sewer system handled this influx of water more efficiently without resorting to pumping into the river during the heavy rain of May 16 and 17, Schwartzkopf said.
“We did get inflow and infiltration,” he said. “The main lift station saw 5 (million) to 5 and a half million gallons per day.”
This is more than twice the normal amount of sewage moving through the main lift station on its way to the wastewater treatment plant and the sewage lagoons. Much of the added wastewater came from the older, downtown part of the city, Schwartzkopf said.
“It looks like the $12 million (spent on the 2013/2014 sanitary sewer project) accomplished the goal of getting wastewater out of the main part of town,” he said.
Andersen agreed the project worked as anticipated.
“It provided us with three brand-new lift stations,” she said. “... We also put in a new force main… the combination of the three lift stations and the new force main really was able to take pressure off the whole system.”
Schwartzkopf said if it had not been for the upgrades to the sewer system, he would have expected a city-wide advisory to plug basement floor drains would have been issued .
“I would have expected more sewer backups,” he said. “If it would have three or four years ago (before upgrades to sanitary sewer system), we would have had the same issues we had in 2011 during the heavy rains a couple weeks back.”
The project also improved city officials’ faith in the sewer system.
“The fear the (sewer) system may fail during a rain event is not valid anymore,” Andersen said.
The sanitary sewer system upgrades were paid for by a bond issue that is being repaid from the half percent of city sales tax dedicated to infrastructure.
“Virtually all of it (half percent city sales tax for infrastructure) is spent,” Andersen said. “We cover 25 percent of special assessments out of that, … we cover the sanitary sewer improvements we did, a portion if not all of the new water tower and water mains, and then we pay the bond payments on the wastewater treatment plant out of that.”
The water tower and mains are located in south Jamestown and provide water to southwest Jamestown to enable growth in that area.
The next plans include upgrades to Jamestown’s storm sewer system. Currently, any storm sewer projects or repairs are paid for by the city’s street department budget.
Studies have already been conducted to determine what needs to be done to improve the efficiency of the storm sewer system. The problem remains how to pay for the projects.
“What we’re looking at right now is a possible stormwater utility as a mechanism to pay for stormwater improvements,” Andersen said.
One possible way to charge a stormwater utility fee may be to add it as a special fee to the water, sewer and sanitation fees already charged by the city, although that has not been finalized.
A stormwater study is also being conducted for lands outside Jamestown to handle stormwater runoff from areas surrounding Jamestown.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com