Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, September 1, 1997

Mid-Am asked to pay for whey spill costs

By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS

The total cost for the city to manage the Mid-America Dairymen whey spill should be paid by the company.

This is the decision of the city's engineers at Rieke, Carroll and Mueller (RCM) after it reviewed the wastewater ordinance.

The spill happened June 4 and dumped 10,000 pounds of whey into the city's wastewater treatment system.

Cost to the city to deal with the spill was calculated at $11,320 by City Clerk Betty Zachmann.

The cost breakdown is: $1,067 for overtime labor; $1,153 for the odor management product, DeScent; $4,214 for the product Bioxide to break up the whey; $4,834 charged by RCM for meetings, letters, and investigations and $50 for a special city council meeting.

Zachmann said she had forwarded a copy of the bill but received no answer. She was not sure if RCM had informed Mid-America of its decision. Zachmann was directed to send another letter to Mid-America pointing out it is responsible to reimburse the city for its costs.

Sump pumps

The council talked at length about where sump pumps should be allowed to discharged. It also discussed what to do about those draining into the sanitary sewer system.

Zachmann said RCM has a person in its staff who exclusively deals with this problem. The council agreed before making any decisions it would ask the person to speak at a meeting.

The latter was pinned as the reason the lift station in Kingsley was unable to handle all the water during the recent heavy rains. As a result drains backed up in many homes.

Zachmann said RCM engineer Cynthia Moller-Krass suggested first to stop the influx of rainwater into the sanitary sewer system. This could be done by sealing the manhole covers and smoke testing.

Smoke testing is done by placing a tablet in the sanitary sewer pipe. As the tablet dissolves, smoke is created and shows where in a home pipes are hooked to the system.

Zachmann said home inspections would be a part of this program.

Out of curiosity, Councilmember Bonnie Quast asked why homes years ago did not have sump pumps.

Mayor Don Guggemos explained in Winsted when a home was built, a tile was buried around the home to drain water away from the house. The home's plumbing, including toilets, were tapped into the same line and all was drained into Winsted Lake.

When the wastewater treatment plant was built, the homeowners' lines were tapped into the sewer line. Guggemos guessed when this was done, the tile lines to drain rainwater were not disconnected and now, from many older homes, the rainwater is running into the sanitary sewer system.

On the issue of where to drain sump pumps, Zachmann said she checked with six cities and all discourage allowing sump pumps to drain onto the curb and gutter. She cited liability to the city because of ice build-up, and in low areas, algae blooms.

"Where should we drain the water?" Quast asked. "That's what all the cities are struggling with," Zachmann answered.


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