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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Frozen Water, Sewer Lines Plague Peshtigo

The unrelenting cold of Winter of 2014 is causing problems for the City of Peshtigo Water and Sewer Department as it is for residents, businesses and municipalities throughout the frozen northland.

Public Works Director Director George Cowell reported at the Water and Sewer Committee meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11 that his crews have been busy thawing frozen lines pretty much since early January, but recently calls have become more frequent, at the rate of perhaps two a day.

Between Jan. 5 and Feb. 11 crews thawed 15 frozen laterals between the curb and the main in the street, where there is no snow cover. Cowell said most had never frozen up before. One refused to respond to normal thawing efforts and he had to call in a professional with a steam box.

Cowell said the 15 property owners have been advised to let their water run at a trickle to keep the lines thawed. To suggestions that perhaps everyone should do this, Cowell said the city can only draw a finite amount of water from its wells, and he was not certain the wells would hold up if the entire city kept their water on.

There were also two sanitary main freezeups for which the city was responsible, and four sewer lateral freezeups on the side for which the property owner is responsible. One cured the problem by pouring salt down the drain and three had to get professional assistance.

Cowell said he is keeping the city’s water towers less full than usual so they draw in fresh water more frequently than usual, which keeps them from freezing.

A water line in an outside wall of a city well house also froze and had to be taken care of. Committee member Fred Meintz commented putting a water line in an unprotected outside wall is a poor design that often causes problems.

Cowell said as a result of all the thawing work the city crew got through fewer cross connection inspections than planned.

Committee members received copies of a Jan. 8 letter from DNR Water Supply Engineer Wendy Anderson informing them the city’s request for a time extension to complete the written cross-connection control plan has been approved. The 45-day extension gives Friday, Feb. 21 as the new date for compliance. “This date will allow the City time to complete the process of adopting a new cross connection ordinance and work out the final implementation details with Hydro Designs, Inc.,” Anderson wrote.

Consultant Terren Nall of Kaempfer Associates has been working with the city on the ordinance. They are still waiting for some details before completing the plan. Lack of a written cross connection control plan had been identified as a deficiency in in Anderson’s inspection letter dated Sept. 23, 2013. The original due date for a completed plan and ordinance was Tuesday, Jan. 7.

On Jan. 1, the city took over operation of the wastewater treatment plant after years of contracting with BPM, Inc. and predecessor company Badger Paper Mills, Inc. for that responsibility. Cowell reported things have been going quite well, and updated the committee on activities, including construction of a new laboratory area. They bought two pieces of lab equipment from BPM, Inc., Cowell said.

Jim Koronkiewicz, general manager of BPM, Inc., was on hand for the meeting. In the interest of an orderly exchange of management, he had presented an itemized list of services mill personnel will provide at city request, along with a rate structure for whatever work they are asked to do. The committee agreed they will issue a 1-year purchase order so Cowell can purchase services as need comes up.

Cowell said he has a list of contacts at BPM, Inc. so he can call for help as needed. He advised Koronkiewicz that the telephone at the lift station is still operational, at BPM, Inc. expense, and Koronkiewicz said he will take care of it.

Cowell reported the city has made some improvements to reduce horsepower usage in one of the aeration basins from 174 hp to about 74 hp, “so we should see some energy savings.”

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa asked Koronkiewicz to help the city obtain copies of 2013 power bills from WPS so they know how to budget, and to help them assess benefit of some of the changes made in the rebuild of the wastewater treatment plant that was completed last year. Koronkiewicz readily agreed to allow the city access to the bills his firm received from WPS.

There was very brief discussion on a letter from the DNR regarding application for renewal of the city’s wastewater discharge permit, which expires on June 30 of 2015. The detailed and somewhat difficult application for renewal must be submitted by Jan. 2, 2015. Significant information on flow rates, temperatures, waste content, etc. is required. Copies of the application form were included.

Gryzwa reminded Cowell and the committee that in order to continue qualifying for the periodic rate increase allowed by law, the Public Service Commission must get reports based on a full year of operation that show the utility is operating within the accepted rate of return.




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