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Flushing rags into sewer means money down the drain for Mayer taxpaxers
March 31, 2014

By Ivan Raconteur

MAYER, MN – Residents served by the Red Barn sanitary sewer lift station on the east side of the Fieldstone development in Mayer have been flushing “disposable” rags and other debris into the sewer system, resulting in expensive repairs, the Mayer City Council learned during last Monday’s meeting.

Public works employee Kyle Kuntz reported the current pumps are not designed to handle rags and similar debris.

Kuntz noted items such as these, flushed into the system have resulted in the city incurring significant costs for service calls and replacement parts.

The city has already paid $5,082 this year in repairs at the lift station, exceeding the $5,000 annual budget line item for repairs.

It was noted the city has sent memos to residents in the Fieldstone development explaining there have been issues with “unwanted” materials being flushed into the system, and explaining what items can and cannot be flushed. The city also posted this information on the city’s website.

According to the city, popular bathroom wipes – pre-moistened towelettes that are often advertised as “flushable” – are clogging the pumps in the sanitary sewer system. Other items that clog the system include: fats, oils, grease, rags, and paper. These are the top five things that should not be flushed down the toilet, according to the city.

The city posted a link to a YouTube video on its website to show residents what they should flush, and what they should not. The link can be found on the Herald Journal website, www.heraldjournal.com.

Kuntz said he has to clean a large garbage bag of rags and other debris out of the system every week.

City staff proposed purchasing two new KSB Vortex pumps, at a cost of $7,945 per pump, for the Red Barn lift station.

Quality Flow Systems, which maintains the pumps, has offered to purchase the two existing pumps in that lift station for $1,000 each, which would reduce the cost of the two new pumps to a total of $13,900.

The existing pumps are about nine years old, but have only about 130 hours of operation, due to the low flow rate at that lift station.

The city’s other two sanitary sewer lift stations already have the new type of pumps (the same type that are being proposed for the Red Barn lift station). The new pumps have a different type of impeller, which allow the pumps to tear through debris that is flushed into the system.

So far, there have been no issues with pumps clogging at the other lift stations.

Council members expressed concern about the mounting cost to taxpayers if the problem continues.

The council approved replacement of one pump, at a cost not to exceed $10,000. This could include the pump recommended by staff (and by Quality Flow Systems), or it could be a grinder pump, which Council Member Bruce Osborn asked staff to investigate.

The council will consider replacement of the second pump during the budget process later this year.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• discussed mailboxes damaged during snowplowing operations with the city’s contractor, Molnau Trucking. The company agreed to reimburse the city $337 for mailbox repairs.

• declined a request from a resident who asked the city to waive sewer fees on a utility bill that was unusually high due to a leaking toilet.

• authorized staff to move forward with preparation of plans for restrooms in Old Schoolhouse Park to be used in the bidding process for the project.

• discussed bids for installation of video equipment purchased from the city of Waconia. The council directed staff to contact ZTS Productions regarding the project.

• authorized staff to advertise a “Train for the Trail” program, at a cost not to exceed $250.

• authorized staff to transfer left-over capital funds from the general fund to specific funds, including $44,518 to the fire truck fund; $10,842 to the street fund; and $9,247 to the community center fund.

• authorized staff to apply for a safety grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the purchase of a manhole cover lifter. The total cost of the equipment is $2,585, and the city would be responsible for a 50 percent match ($1,293). The council also authorized application for a grant for safety equipment for the fire department at a total cost of $1,391. The city match would be $696.

The proposed purchases are based on a review of the city’s facilities by the League of Minnesota Cities loss control consultant.

• authorized the fire chief to apply for a CenterPoint Energy Community Partnership Grant to be used to purchase an electric pump for extraction tools. The total cost of the pump is $8,500. The grant amount would be $2,500, and the city would pay $6,000.

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