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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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New Treatment Plant Lab Achieves State Certification

The City of Peshtigo’s Water and Sewer Committee was informed Tuesday, June 10 by Public Works Director George Cowell that the new lab at the wastewater treatment plant passed its inspection and is now certified to do many of the tests required by DNR rules.

“This is good news!” Cowell declared. “This was not a cursory review,” he added. “The auditor was in the lab for almost a whole day.” Among tests that can now be done in-house is one for BODs that needs to be done five days a week. Cost to have an outside firm do the test was $85 each time.

Cowell said the certification needs to be renewed every year, “but this is the big one....We’re up and running!” The inspection report cited only one minor deficiency, and it is being corrected, Cowell said.

He has a list of things the audit chemists said they need to work on, including that the sampling point needs to be changed. He explained it was correct historically, but now they want it pre-chlorine instead of post-chlorine. Also they will need to demonstrate that the sampling container is clean to start with.

The July 1 deadline for finalizing inspection reports for private wells in the city is fast approaching. There are still eight known private wells without satisfactory certifications. The owners have been contacted, Cowell said. Several said they are working on it, at least one has been closed, but from two there have been no responses. In one case, the person who did the well closing has died and the owner is working with the DNR to get proof. Cowell stressed that the city must be in compliance by July 1, so on that date, city water service to any properties with non-compliant private wells will be disconnected.

“Just so every one knows we have to enforce the shutoff policy,” Cowell said. “It’s in our ordinance and it is required by the DNR.”

Committee Chair Tom Gryzwa said they need to have a formal policy on water service disconnections. Cowell said they had 37 water disconnect notices to hand out recently, “and placarding works very well.” The placards give notice that service will be disconnected in 24 hours if the bill is not paid, and he said once those are distributed, 90 percent of the owners come in to pay.

Assistant Acting Clerk/Treasurer Anita Morois said before the placards go out, the city is required by the Public Service Commission to send official written notice giving 10 days to pay. “It’s the law and we need to do it,” she declared.

Gryzwa asked Cowell to work with the City Hall staff on a formal policy for the committee next meeting, which was set for Tuesday, July 22.

By Dec. 31 all the cross connection inspections must be done, and Cowell saw no problem in meeting that deadline. The meeting included a report from HydroDesigns on their residential cross connection inspection progress.

Cowell said while doing those inspections, HydroDesign people are noting instances where they see sump pumps emptying into drains that go into the sanitary sewer system, and he will be contacting those people. There is also water infiltrating the sanitary sewers from other sources and they will work on that. Cowell said the wastewater treatment plant has the capacity to treat it, but clean water infiltrating the system does increase the amount of effluent they need to treat. He said a full block of sewer on Railroad Street between the alley on West Front Street and the Emery Ave. intersection needs to be replaced. It had two collapses of sewer pipes that caused backups.

Commissioner Fred Meintz noted the sewer serving the Corral Restaurant and neighboring service station is so near the surface that it causes a bump in the road. Cowell said he will look at it. He noted it is in a somewhat low area where there are no basements, so it may be closer to the surface than the six feet that the DNR generally requires.

Gryzwa asked if there had been any more problems with grease blocking sewer blockages, and Cowell said it did occur again. He believes it came from the restaurant, but the owners are working with him on it and he thinks things will be better.

Correspondence for the meeting included an e-mail from Wendy Anderson of the DNR advising an extension has been granted until Nov. 1 to complete the directional flushing program for the water system.

Cowell said the flushing is continuing, and in the course of that work they found three hydrants that needed to be replaced. He ordered five hydrants. One has been replaced, one was being done on the day of the meeting, and the third will be replaced when the new ones come in.

They also found several places where valves aren’t working properly and may need to put out bids for some spot repairs, Cowell said.

Annual inspection reports for both the water utility and the sewer/wastewater system had been submitted, “and overall we did very well on the inspection report,” Cowell said in reference to the sewer report.

The Sewer Maintenance Annual Report will now go to City Council for approval. Copies are on file for review in the City Clerk’s office. The report gives a “report card” at the end, and for the first time in many years, perhaps ever, the city received a 4.00 grade point average. Cowell said among things that helped were the new rates, which prove financial responsibility, and the new ordinance.

According to that report, the city received 37.63 inches of precipitation last year, compared with the average of 32.4 inches. The city owns 20 miles of sanitary sewer and eight lift stations. There were 39 lift station failures in the year, two sewer pipe failures, 15 basement backup occurrences, and 15 complaints. There were no exceedances of permit limits for pollutants such as metals, pH, residual chlorine or fecal coliform.

The report also said the city needs to set up an equipment replacement fund, and Morois said they have already talked with the auditors about that and it will be done. The replacement fund balance was reduced to zero last year because of the reconstruction project.

Cowell said BPM, Inc. was very helpful in providing the information needed for the lengthy report that had been compiled by himself and WWTP Operator Jeff Mayou.

The Waterworks Consumer Confidence Report includes a listing of contaminants detected in the water supply. There were some identified in small amounts, but none in amounts large enough to be violations.

Mayor Cathi Malke noted the report states the water system did not monitor for cryptosporidium or radon during 2013, and she wondered why, since so many people are sufficiently concerned about radon that they buy radon monitors for their homes.

Cowell said they do not have a radon gas issue with the water supply, but do have a radon issue and they test for that. The radium content comes from erosion of natural deposits, but was well below acceptable limits.

Meintz commented that radon gas varies greatly, depending on underlying rock formations, and can be vastly different in a half block area or even less.

The report, as a bit ot extra health information, notes that lead can get into drinking water from pipes in private plumbing systems and can cause serious health problems for pregnant women and young children. Anyone concerned can reduce the potential for lead exposure by letting tap water run for 30 seconds to two minutes before using it for drinking or cooking, and if still concerned, homeowners may wish to have their tap water tested.

With some regret, the committee approved credit of only $30.42 on a sewer bill for Ryan Larsh. Larsh had sought sewer credit for 151,500 gallons of water that went into the basement of a vacant home he owns in Peshtigo. At the rate of $5.07 per 1,000 gallons, the bill came to $768. The request had been received last month, but was tabled for more information. Gryzwa said since then he had spoken with the contractor who pumped the water out of the basement and was told water was only about a foot deep. Based on the size of the basement, Gryzwa said that would be about 6,000 gallons. The remainder apparently went down the floor drain and into the sanitary system.

The 6,000 gallons that were pumped out added $30.42 to the sewer bill for water that the treatment plant did not receive. “It’s sad, but that’s the law. We have no recourse. That’s pretty much all we can do,” Gryzwa commented. He said that is a hazard of leaving the water turned on in a vacant building, and suggested a motion awarding him that amount.

“If he wants it,” cautioned Committee member Dan Seymour. The owner of a property can claim the credit only once in his time as owner of the property.

Meintz agreed Larsh very well might not want to take that small amount of credit, and moved to grant the credit if he wants to take it. Seymour then seconded the motion and Gryzwa approved.

Meintz noted a 5/8-inch meter can put out 50 gallons a minute, so even doing daily checks might not prevent a similar situation.

Cowell reported on general activities during the past month, and at the conclusion of the meeting the committee toured the facilities.




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