Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, July 15, 2002

Flood victims speak to HL council

By Lynda Jensen

A string of flood victims took turns speaking with emotion to the Howard Lake Council during its meeting Tuesday.

First, the council heard from Mark Page, who owns one of the homes at the mobile home court.

Ten of the mobile homes have been declared uninhabitable by the city, and another four are in need of repair.

"Our lives are destroyed," Page said. Page described leaving his residence during the storm evacuation with a 6-year-old child in his arms, in close proximity of an electric meter inches away from flood water.

"This shouldn't happen to another family," he said. Page asked if the city could have prevented the mobile park flooding.

City Administrator Kelly Bahn pointed out that the mobile park is private property and that the city could be sued if it stepped out of bounds to dictate requirements to the owners. "We would see a major lawsuit," she said.

Page also indicated his home is unlivable because of sewage, since tainted flood water touched his insulation.

Bahn corrected Page, saying that very little if any sewage was present at the mobile home park, and that regardless of it, flood water is contaminated by its nature, she said.

The city inspector is contending that any mobile home that has its insulation touched by flood water is uninhabitable, Bahn said.

In order to make the home livable, the owner would need to remove all of the insulation from within the walls of the mobile home, she said.

Page pointed out that the park had been flooded before, and asked if there could be some kind of zoning that would be enforceable.

Bahn answered that the city was in the process of asking Wright County to help formulate an answer to this, since the county would better able to handle it, she said.

Page also indicated that tenants at the park are still being charged lot rent, even though they are not being allowed to live in their homes.

Several home owners along Fourth Avenue also spoke to the council about their chronic sewer backup problems, with the super storm of June 24 and 25 delivering more sewage than ever to the homes there.

Power outages worsened the situation, since sump pumps and other devices were rendered inoperable during the storm.

"Each time it rains, it affects more homes," observed Council Member Shelly Reddemann, who lives at Fourth Avenue.

The council acknowledged problems with the line, as well as tremendous amounts of surface water that appeared to be infiltrating there. However, the engineer was uncertain exactly what the problem could be, and the council ordered the line to be given a smoke test.

It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't sewer water, commented Orvin Evenski, who lives at Fourth Avenue.

Evenski said he was ready to abandon his house. "I'm sick of it," Evenski said. "Just do something. It's not going to fix itself."

Donna Reddemann also spoke to the council.

The Reddemanns have been backed up three times, in 1999, 2001, and this year, she said. Each time, she's lost items, including an antique oak cabinet, furniture, and now her furnace, washer and dryer, and two lockers full of food.

"The worst sound I have during any rainstorm is not thunder and lightning anymore, but the gurgling noise I hear coming out of the sewer," she said. Her basement might as well be made of sand, she said.

She outlined suggestions given to her by a plumber, including the installation of a valve that would prevent the flow inward, at a minimum cost of $2,000.

This would cause the sewer to back out into an already full manhole when it rains heavily. "I don't care if the manhole blows to kingdom come,' she said.

"I know words aren't going to help at all," Mayor Gerry Smith said. "But it's high on the priority list," he said. A solution for this kind of problem takes time, he said.

The city discussed purchasing its own large pump, since it had to rent all the pumps used during the flood.

The city ordered a capital improvement plan last year, which is in progress now, to address the sewer system in its entirety.

Another resident who spoke to the council was Milt Jensen, who has experienced chronic storm water problems ever since the Orchard Terrace development was constructed.

In the past, Jensen has appeared before the council at least twice, asking for relief from the storm water, which washes out his yard and ruins his flower gardens.

This time, due to the large volume of water, the retaining wall failed, City Administrator Kelly Bahn said.

Water reached his basement for the first time in 42 years, and ruined $3,500 worth of Pergo flooring, Jensen said.

"Whom should I sue?" Jensen asked. The engineer at Orchard Estates made the mistake, Jensen said, but the city signed off on the papers which makes it culpable for the error, he said. "I'm real frustrated."

Another person who addressed the council about flood -related subjects was Kirk Jensen, who was speaking on behalf of Troy and Susie Lange, whose Lake Ann home was destroyed during the June 24 and 25 storm.

Jensen's daughters babysit for the Langes, and he is helping with the benefit for them Sunday, Aug. 25 at Memorial Park.

The entire HLWW junior class is planning a dunk tank at the ballpark, he said. Volunteers are needed to sit in the tank. Those interested may call Jensen at (320) 543-2325.

Donations for the silent auction are still being taken as well.

Jensen asked for a 3.2 license, which will be administered by the Lions or the Legion. The event will include a pig roast.

The council approved the license, pending that one of the other organizations can take care of the insurance requirements.

Sewage pumped into lake was mostly surface water

In other subjects, the council spoke with lake association member Curt Forst.

Forst asked about the sewage that was pumped into the lake by the city after the storm, which was permitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Test results showed it was mostly surface water that was being processed at the treatment plant, said Maintenance Supervisor Tom Goepfert.

It was noted that no water was pumped directly into the lake; rather into storm ponds or other indirect routes.

It was impossible to determine exactly how much water was pumped, but at the height of the storm, the processing plant went through 1.4 million gallons the following Sunday, Goepfert said.

Goepfert indicated that water tests of incoming water showed it to be mostly surface water which entered the sewer system, which was subsequently pumped into the lake.

Test results of the water in Howard Lake show it to be safe, as of July 5, Bahn said.

"We are processing a lot of surface water at taxpayer expense," Reddemann noted.

Forst also indicated that the response was very good for the plans to treat the lake for swimmer's itch, with the estimated cost being less than previously thought, and that it was still possible to fit a treatment in this summer.

The Howard Lake beach is open, but the landings are closed.

Smith indicated that if the landings were opened, it would require a 300-foot, no-wake zone around the lake.

Many docks are still under water and cannot be seen by boaters, Smith noted.

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