Record rainfalls have city seeking sewer improvements

A summer of record rainfalls is leaving major problems in its wake throughout Minnesota, and Maple Lake is no exception.

At its meeting on August 20, the Maple Lake City Council received a report from City Engineer Phil Gravel with recommendations for coping with a list of water issues, most notably those concerning the June 24 storm that resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in damages within the city.

Gravel cited four problem areas within the city during that storm and pointed to the Jude Addition lift station on Sixth Street and the area of the Curt Nordlie and Tim Borell homes on Fourth Street West as the chief areas of concern.

He said the Jude lift station problems were initiated when the storm knocked out power to that area. A back-up generator was in place within 30 minutes, but Gravel said that the lift station could not catch up with the excessive flows coming through the sanitary sewer system and sewer backups into homes in the Robert Avenue area was the result.

Gravel said it may be impossible to prevent future problems in storms of such intensity, but he did list preventative measures that would improve the system. Those recommendations include:

1. Installing a more sophisticated alarm system, including an automatic phone dialer.

2. Upgrade the city’s portable generator and consider installing a permanent generator at the Jude lift station.

3. Replace the pumps at the Jude lift station and upsize them for more flow.

4. Evaluate the possibility of adding a second wetwell tank at the Jude lift station to provide more storage volume.

5. Recommend that homeowners install check valves on their sewer service lines.

6. Continue to investigate disconnection of sump pumps.

In the Nordlie/Borell area, Gravel said those sewer backups were the result of excessive inflow in the sewer system and the inability of the lift station to handle that flow. Suggested improvements include:

1. Install a manhole and piping improvements to the Nordlie sewer service.

2. Add a more sophisticated alarm system to the lift station, including an automatic phone dialer.

3. Continue to look for infiltration and inflow sources.

Such unidentified infiltration and inflow sources were also believed to be responsible for sewer backups at other locations in the city. Gravel said that Public Works Director Jerry Sawatzke is currently reviewing sewer television inspection tapes to look for problems in the affected sewers.

In his report on the storm sewer system, Gravel said that it, “for the most part, functioned pretty well,” given the enormous amount of rainfall from the June 24 storm. He noted that Jude’s holding pond overflowed during the storm, but he said the overflow occurred to the north as designed and cautioned the council that additional ponding and an overland drainage route will need to be preserved on the property north of Jude’s pond.

Gravel also distributed a report containing rainfall information from the Earth Science Department at St. Cloud State. “It’s a pretty rare occurrence when we get a storm as bad as you had in June,” he said.

Mayor Mike Messina suggested that Gravel come back to the council with costs for the recommendations so the council could prioritize the projects. “We wouldn’t have asked you to do this if we weren’t serious about making improvements,” he said.

In other water related business, the council:

l Passed a resolution granting a wetland exemption to Todd and Alison Totz for the repair of an on-site septic system.  The council has been dealing with a DNR citation issued to the Totzes last year over fill spread on an area the Totzes consider their lawn and the DNR considers a wetland.

Peterson Environmental Consulting provided a Wetland Investigation report that concluded a broken pipe in the septic tank drain field on the Totz property may be contributing to the water problems, along with an obstruction in a 36-inch pipe under the railroad tracks on County Road 8.

Gravel and the city’s wetland representative, John Smyth, recommended the exemption in the hopes that it would put an end to this issue, and the council agreed. “I think we need to jump on it,” Messina said.

l Received a report from Gravel addressing possible remedies for a drainage problem that has resulted in a dispute between property owners at the northwest corner of the Hwy. 55 and Cty. Rd. 8 intersection.

Gravel recommended installation of a 12-inch concrete pipe through the Byron Tilus property extending north from the existing MnDOT culvert. Cost of the project would be an estimated $7,750, which Gravel said could be assessed back to benefiting property owners. But he said that because the area is so flat, there will be times when standing water will occur despite the pipe installation and said property owners would need to do grading to help solve the problem.

The council passed a resolution accepting the feasibility report and set a public hearing on the project for the second meeting in September.

l Received two schedules from Gravel outlining timelines the city could elect to follow regarding its Wastewater Treatment Plant project. One was a “fast track” for moving ahead with the improvement of the city’s current facilities. The second was based on the latest possible deadlines for a Public Facilities Authority load that would provide time to evaluate a possible joint treatment facility with Annandale. “We think the city is wise to explore the joint city option and encourage you to do so,” Gravel said.

l Approved a motion to install a 12-inch water main on the north side of Hwy. 55 between Maple and Spruce at a cost of about $9,000. Gravel said the contractor currently working on the Spruce street construction agreed to add the water main to the project, which would allow the city to get the water main in place before Warrior Boats begins a parking lot paving project.