By Roz Kohls
DASSEL, MN Dassel doesn’t have many sanitary sewer problems. When it does, however, it’s usually the result of kitchen grease being poured down the drain, Jay Evjen, a worker with Dassel’s public works department, said Wednesday.
Kitchen grease interferes with the floats in the lift stations. As a result, the lift stations don’t work properly, and set off alarms in the wastewater treatment plant, northwest of Dassel. Then, city maintenance workers have to go to the lift station and clean it out, even if it’s the middle of the night or in subzero temperatures during the winter, he said.
A problem with the lift station is one of two of the primary causes for a sewer backup, according to the risk management department of the League of Minnesota Cities. The other cause is an obstruction in the sanitary sewer line.
Sewage backing up into residents’ homes or businesses costs more than ever. More residents have finished basements than before. Also, mold prevention cleaning costs more. The average cost per claimant in 2008 doubled to $6,000 from 2007, according to the league’s web site.
The sewer line from residences and businesses to the city sewer main is the responsibility of the property owner, not the city of Dassel. Property owners are responsible for clearing any blockages in private lines, according to the league.
The city maintains and cleans the city-owned portion of the system. Some parts are cleaned every year. Some parts are cleaned every four years, Evjen said.
Sanitary sewer problems cost the cities in the league almost $1 million in 2008. Between 2003 and 2006, the loss from sanitary sewer claims totaled $5.9 million. It is to everyone’s advantage to prevent sanitary sewer backups, according to the league.
In addition to not pouring kitchen grease down the drain, residents are asked not to dump or flush diapers, sanitary napkins, rags or shop towels, garage waste such as antifreeze or oil, paint, poison, solvents, corrosives, and sand or mud into the sanitary sewer system.
Inflow and infiltration also are a potential cause of sewer backups. Inflow and infiltration refer to rainwater and other clear water from a roof, ground sump pump, or foundation drain. The clear water gets into the sanitary sewer system through cracks or leaks in sewer pipes, manholes, or from sump pumps incorrectly connected to the sanitary sewer, according to the league.
If Dassel residents have questions or a problem with a sanitary sewer backup, the public works department can be reached by calling (320) 275-3180 between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., city offices by calling, (320) 275-2454, or the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 693-5400 in an after-hours emergency.