By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN It was discovered Tuesday that one of the sanitary sewer lines coming from the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School in Howard Lake is directly connected to the city’s stormwater sewer line, which flows into Howard Lake.
The sanitary sewer line comes from the southeast corner of the school, and has probably been connected to the city’s stormwater sewer line since that area of the school was remodeled in 1997, said Howard Lake city engineer Barry Glienke of Bolton & Menk.
The problem was first brought to the attention of Glienke and school administration when more than 2 inches of rain fell in Howard Lake Aug. 1, causing at least one toilet to back up in the office area of the middle school.
The toilet was tested Tuesday evening, and it showed connection to the stormwater sewer, according to Glienke.
Further testing and investigation needs to take place to discover where in the building the connection occurs, and what the full extent of the problem is.
Over the next couple of weeks, equipment will be brought in to perform tests throughout the building to ensure proper connections to the sanitary and stormwater sewers, Glienke said.
Once the extent of the problem has been determined, a plan can be designed to properly connect all sanitary and stormwater sewer lines coming from the school.
The cost of the repairs, or who is responsible for paying for them, has not yet been determined, Glienke said.
In the meantime, the city will be installing a sanitary sewer service line from the street to the area where the problem was found in order to keep construction on the street in progress, Glienke said.
“We can’t slow down the road contractor. If we do, the road won’t be done by the time school starts,” Glienke said
Flooding that also occurred near the loading dock area where the cafeteria is located at the school, has happened in the past when it rains heavily or there is fast snow melt, according to HLWW Superintendent Brad Sellner.
“That’s one of the reasons we moved forward to do the project with the city,” Sellner said.
Many of the roof drains are not connected to the city’s stormwater sewer, but simply come down the side of the building, which may be a cause of the flooding in that area.
When the roofing project at the middle school was done in 2004 or 2005, it was discovered that a roof drain was connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system and was corrected, Sellner said.
The plan is to connect all the roof drains to the city’s stormwater sewer system as the street and utility project is completed near the school, Sellner said.
“We are fortunate we found out about this in the summer, rather than during the school year,” Sellner said.
The school district hired professional cleaners to clean all the areas that have been flooded, he added.
The water in the office area of the school was about an inch or so deep, according to Sellner.
Last Monday, workers were deep-cleaning the office area after all the damaged carpeting and Sheetrock had been removed.
The toilets in the office area of the middle school have been closed until the investigation into the extent of the problem is completed, Sellner said.
The cleaning in the cafeteria and west hall area was less extensive since it is hard tile flooring and cinder block walls, but the professional cleaning service also cleaned there.
The school district also had the school drinking water tested by the city to ensure it was not compromised during the flooding, Sellner said. The test showed the water is good.