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City Still Has Muddy Water Problems

City of Peshtigo water and sewer bills will take on a new look with the next billing. Thanks to provisions of the privacy law, the bills can no longer come on a post card. Until new software is developed with a means to protect possibly confidential information, the cards will be printed as usual and then inserted into envelopes for mailing. This means letter postage for each of the 1,400 bills mailed each quarter rather than post card rates.

“Just another governmental regulation that costs us money,” commented Water and Sewer Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa at a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Shawn Kaempf came to the committee to report a recurring problem with muddy water at his rental property on 250 Spruce Street. It happened again Friday, Sept. 6, he said, for the fourth time in two years. The mud coming through the water lines plugs up the filters on the dishwasher so he had to clean them, and he had to flush the water heater six times to get the mud out. The last time that happened his tenant was in the shower and ended up having to use bottled water to rinse off the mud that came out of the shower head.

Gryzwa said there had been an unauthorized draw from the system by a fire department tanker that stirred up the sediment in the lines, and added that the fire chief has been told where to draw water in the future.

Public Works Director George Cowell said they have started a flushing program in accord with DNR rules that call for flushing water lines regularly every other year. His department got the east side done this year and will do the west side next year, he said. He commented the “discolored” water is the result of sediment in the old cast iron water lines. When they rebuild streets they should consider replacing the cast iron water mains with newer types that are corrosive free, he added. “The water coming from our plant is clean, but sediment comes from the system.”

Cowell said Kaempf’s area was one of the worst when they did flushing last fall and again this spring. “We may want to flush there again this fall, but the discoloration probably will just travel there from somewhere else unless they do the system in the proper order. He felt once they get into the regular bi-annual flushing program things should be a lot better.

“Every time you flush I have to clean everything up again,” Kaempf declared.

Cowell said the cleaning is generally done late at night and in the very early morning hours, and residents are notified. If they don’t use water at that time there shouldn’t be a problem.

Engineer Chris Kaempfer, present for discussion of the wastewater treatment plant rebuild and other issues, suggested Kaempf might want to buy a water filter that can be installed just after the meter on the main entry to the home.

“As bad as this was, it would block up immediately,” Kaempf declared.

Kempfer agreed, but said at least he could just replace that filter without having to clean the dishwasher and hot water tank.

Cowell received an e-mail from Wendy Anderson of the WDNR regarding the upcoming Peshtigo Sanitary Survey Inspection. He said the valve hydrant inspection went better than it did two years ago, the fire towers have been repainted and hydrant maintenance has improved. Cross connection inspections remain a problem. “It is an issue with manpower to get everything done,” Cowell said, “but we are making strides.”

He said the last time Anderson suggested a water rate increase it was done.

Committee member Fred Meintz wondered if there is a way to do automatic rate increases so they will be a little at a time and not as much of a shock to the people who pay the bills. Kaempfer said for three consecutive years they can do an automatic three percent increase, like a cost of living raise, and then on the fourth year go to the WPSC for a full rate review. No action was taken on the matter, but it may come up for consideration at a future meeting.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Lead Operator Gary Motkowski reported a bearing is going out on one of the blower motors that was not replaced with the rebuild. Kaempfer said replacing the bearing “is a big deal,” and they should get it rebuilt. BPM, Inc. General Manager Jim Koronkiewicz said they are probably getting a rebuilt one in any case. He will check some things mentioned by Kaempfer as well.

Kaempfer reported they are still waiting for test results from Elmstar Electric works, and there are still a few small items for the contractor to correct, so the committee agreed to hold off on paying the final bill, for $99,229.19, until everything is done and the test results are known. Meintz commented he didn’t feel bad about delaying payment because Elmstar could have done the tests long before this

Cowell reported a clay tile sewer line “just collapsed,” and they had to get a septic tanker to pump out some material. The city’s jetter was stuck twice, and the contractor they called in almost got stuck too.

The committee agreed the old sludge press at the wastewater treatment plant should be disposed of as obsolete equipment. Getting it out of the building means making a hole in the wall, so that should be done before winter.

A request from Oudenhoven Construction for an additional $2,438 on their contract to pay for a Builder’s Risk insurance policy, was approved.

Koronkiewicz reported work on the ventilation system in the chlorination room is nearly complete and it should be in operation this week. He had received quotes that morning from Ed’s Concrete for some concrete work that needs to be done.

Committee member Dan Seymour asked about some hand rails that are “just hanging.”

Koronkiewicz said they had been damaged during the construction project and repairs are being made.

The committee is preparing to seek proposals for operation of the wastewater treatment plant, a contract currently held by BPM, Inc., which is also the largest user of the facility. Cowell said they had advertised for proposals for full or partial operation to leave options open for various proposals. A pre-proposal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25 and bids are to be opened on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Meanwhile, in case a city employee will be needed to operate the plant, Gryzwa asked Cowell to draw up a job description for a lead operator position. He said the state average pay for that job is $22.51 per hour, so they decided to make the starting pay $21.50 per hour. They sent a request to the Personnel Committee to meet prior to the next Council meeting to establish a tentative position of Wastewater Treatment Plant Lead Operator at that pay rate in case a person is needed.

Cowell reported that Ellis Avenue from Thompson Street to McCagg Street is ready for total reconstruction. There are problems with the existing cast iron water lines there and he felt they should be replaced while the road is torn up, since water quality issues will continue until new lines are put in. He said sewer in that area is clay tile and should be okay, but he wanted to televise it before the road work is done to be sure.

Kaempfer asked if he was planning to go with PVC lines, but Cowell said he prefers the metal lines with special coatings. At a Streets Committee meeting later this month he will suggest taking $100,000 from this year’s funds and budgeting the same amount next year for the project.

He estimated a total of $83,900 to replace water mains, valves, hydrants and laterals in the construction area, and replacing sewer lines if needed will add another $71,400 to the project cost.


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841 Maple St
PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
Phone: 715-582-4541
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