By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN The city of Howard Lake has started its sump pump inspection program. A letter was sent to residents June 6 informing them that the inspections would be taking place.
The letter also included pictures of Mike Amborn and Bryce Johnson from Bolton & Menk, who will be conducting the inspections.
They will be wearing yellow and orange safety vests, as well as a name tags issued by the city of Howard Lake with their pictures.
Residents who do not wish to have inspectors from Bolton & Menk entering their homes can have their sump pump certified by their own plumber, said City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp.
The sump pump inspections, along with the street and utility repairs that will be taking place this summer, are the first phase in correcting the city’s inflow and infiltration problems.
Inflow is due to direct storm sewer connections, such as sump pumps, foundation drains, downspouts, and holes in manhole covers.
Infiltration is water that leaks into the sanitary sewer system through leaks in the pipe underground.
Last year, the city of Howard Lake’s expense for treating water at the wastewater treatment plant it shares with Annandale and Maple Lake was $298,000, Hinnenkamp said.
The city pays $4 for every 1,000 gallons of water it sends to the wastewater treatment plant.
Residents in Howard Lake pay $4 for every 1,000 gallons of water used in sewer fees.
But, last year, residents only paid in $160,000, leaving about a $140,000 gap between expenses and revenue, Hinnenkamp said.
“The sewer fund will quickly deplete unless we fix the problem, or start charging residents higher sewer fees,” Hinnenkamp said.
The explanation given for the gap in revenue and expense is that individual water meters monitor how much water is entering a household, but not how much water is leaving, according to Hinnenkamp.
When a household has a sump pump, a foundation drain, or a downspout connected to the sanitary sewer system, they are not charged for the additional gallons of water being discharged.
Yet, the amount of water the city is discharging to the wastewater treatment plant is being monitored once it enters the facility, and it is being charged for the additional gallons of water.
The city is doing what it can to fix the infiltration problems with the street and utility improvement projects taking place this summer.
Once the city has completed its improvements and the sump pump inspections, it will have a better understanding of what else needs to happen to fix its remaining inflow and infiltration problems, which will be phase two, said city engineer Barry Glienke of Bolton & Menk.
Phase two could include more intensive testing, such as smoke or dye tests and televising of the sewer line to determine whether things such as foundation drains or drain tiles are connected to the sanitary sewer, Glienke said.
At this time, it is unknown whether those tests will need to be done.
It will not be known until after it is determined how much the street and utility improvement project and first phase of the sump pump inspection program reduced the amount inflow and infiltration into Howard Lake’s sanitary sewer system.
“We need to find out how to fix this, because if we don’t figure it out, our wonderful sewer fund will go away,” Hinnenkamp said.