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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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City Sump Pumps Must Not Drain Into Sanitary Sewers

Issue Date: May 9, 2019

Public Works Director George Cowell advised Peshtigo City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, May 7, that due to a sewer overflow problem last week the city has been ordered by the DNR to insure that sump pumps from buildings in the city, including residences, no longer drain into the city's sanitary sewer system. He said the sump pumps can be connected to the storm sewer system or drain into a ditch or the yard, but must be disconnected from sanitary sewer drains.

He explained that due to high ground waters from the snow pack level, extremely high water level in the river, and the long stretch of rain, the lift station was not able to handle all the fresh water that got into the sanitary sewer system. As a result, a drain backed from the morning of Thursday, May 2 through the morning of Saturday, May 4.

All the backup was contained in the manhole catch basin so it sank back into the ground and did not enter directly into the river, Cowell said. Nevertheless, the DNR was properly notified and now has ordered the city to correct the problem to prevent a repeat.

"We have to eliminate sump pumps from our system," Cowell repeated. "It's a big job, but it has to be done."

Alderperson Debbie Sievert asked what can be done about the sump pumps. Cowell said the best answer would be if the property owners can hook to storm sewers or ditches. Otherwise, they can pump water outside into their yard, after which it will probably get back into the basement and need to be pumped again, but meanwhile the basement will be dry.

Sievert asked if people in areas without storm sewers are more likely to be draining sump pumps into the sanitary system, and Cowell agreed that is the case. He said in Rainbow Subdivision most of the pumps do drain into storm sewers, and most in the Badger Park area pump into ditches.

Alderperson Jillian Schutte suggested that even though it would be expensive, perhaps for future plans they should put in more storm sewers.

Cowell felt that would be difficult, but said he will work with home owners and suggest solutions for them.

On an entirely different subject, Cowell assured the Council and city residents that there is no PFAS contamination of the city's water supply, despite problems with groundwater in some nearby areas.

He said when they became aware in mid April of possible PFAS content in sludge from the city's wastewater treatment plant they immediately had tests done on all three of the wells that supply the city's water system. Two of the wells showed no PFAS content at all, and the third well showed a very low detection amount, too small to even measure. "Those tests were done on raw ground water, before it even got to our treatment plant," Cowell said.

Meanwhile, test samples of the wastewater treatment plant sludge have been sent to a laboratory in California, the only one they are aware of that does that type of test. Results should be received in about three weeks and Mayor Cathi Malke promised results will be made public at that time.

Ground and surface waters in some areas of the Town of Peshtigo have shown elevated PFAS levels, apparently as a result of fire extinguisher foams tested by Tyco Fire Products on a site in the City of Marinette. Runoff from that property migrated into surface and groundwaters.

PFOS and PFOA compounds, otherwise referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), were used in firefighting products manufactured in Marinette by Tyco Fire Products. The materials also were used in cooking utensils, clothing, and other products for many years before it was determined that consuming excess amounts could cause health problems.

Peshtigo city officials became concerned when they learned Tyco had rented a building in Peshtigo to test the foams, and effluent was sent through the sanitary sewer system to the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor Cathi Malke said unfortunately, no Federal or Wisconsin standards have been set for PFAS discharges. Despite the lack of standards, the city on March 15 proposed to Tyco that pretreatment of wastewater from their facility would have to achieve waste water characteristics equivalent to safe drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS compounds, and on March 19 Tyco voluntarily agreed to cease any further discharge into the city's sewer system.

After city officials learned of a possible PFAS problem they also stopped having sludge from the lagoons hauled away to be spread as fertilizer on farm fields approved by the DNR. This moratorium on hauling will remain in effect at least until results of the tests are known. If the PFAS content is too high the sludge may need to be incinerated or disposed of in an approved solid waste landfill.

The city has been in correspondence with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in regard to sampling and handling methods for the wastewater sludge.

In other matters, Council approved appointment of Steven Anderson as the city employee member of the Ethics Committee, and Rebecca Barrett as Water and Sewer secretary. Barrett, who lives in Oconto Falls, was hired on March 21 to fill a newly created part-time deputy clerk/treasurer position for the city.

On a split vote, with Alderperson Jillian Schutte opposed, and Alderperson Brigitte Schmidt, Deborah Sievert, Mike Behnke, Archer Leupp and John Berendt voting in favor, Council approved Malke's decision to amend the Streets and Drainage Committee membership to include John Berendt as chair, with Brigitte Schmidt and Michael Behnke as members. Formerly the committee had Schutte as chair with Berendt and Schmidt as members.

Because work is to start shortly, bid for the chip seal coating project on Jopek Road was awarded to Fahrner Asphalt Sealers for $24,115.20 without going through committee. Cowell said Fahrner, the sole bidder, has always done good work for the city.

Before the unanimous vote of approval, Leupp asked how he felt about the price, and Cowell replied it was reasonable.

Behnke asked if Marinette County still does this type of work for municipalities. Cowell said they may, "but in the past, we liked the work this contractor did. They used more of a flat stone, which created less dust, and since this is a relatively small project with a reasonable bid he felt they should have them do the work.

In his regular monthly report, Cowell said the banner arms for light poles have been retrofitted and will be re-installed this week or next and most of the flower pots are out, but street sweeping has ben slow and there are still lots of pot holes to be filled.

Work being done by Northeast Asphalt on Aubin Street has started, and city crews raised manhole covers in preparation for that. Culverts will be replaced in late May, and pulverizing and paving should be done in early June, Cowell said.

They will again be flushing water lines during May, June and July.

In other action, Council approved a certified survey map for All American Dream Homes at 591 Maple Street as recommended by the Plan Commission; approved advertising for requests for proposals for a security and surveillance camera system for Badger Park, the Municipal Building, main intersection and the planned river/fish viewing platform as laid out by Parks and Rec Director Dave Zahn; approved the Parks and Recreation 2019 Spring/Summer Program Guide as amended by the Parks and Recreation Committee, and approved the April Building Inspection Report from Tom Smith Inspections.

There had been four building permits issued in March. They included a permit for Steven Anderson to install new siding at 350 N. Noquebay Ave.; Charles Leinen to re-roof the building at 511 Maple Street; Richard Pesmark to put in a 140 foot fence at 401 S. Wood Ave., and BMO Bank to upgrade the parking area and the interior of their building at 120 N. Emery Ave.

Under inspection updates, Smith noted he had contacted the owner on Front Street to remind him he will need to raze his old detached garage when he finishes his new garage, since the ordinance allows only one accessory building per lot.

He also had contacted the owner of the greenhouse in the industrial area about a hoop building he is constructing, who had thought because it is something of a temporary structure he would not need a permit. Smith said that would be true only if it is to be taken down and put in storage each year. Since he does not want to do that, he will get a permit.

The roof on the DNR building was being repaired without a permit. He advised them they need a permit, and they will be getting it. He had told them if the application were received immediately he would waive the fine.

He had received a call about work being done at 341 West Front Street, and found they did have a permit for the work being done, which is a complete home remodel. The permit card was just not easily visible from the street.

He also received a phone call from the owner of the condemned accessory building at 181 Emery Ave. They will either take it down or fully repaired, depending on price estimates they receive. He had agreed to table any additional action for a few weeks.

On older items, Smith said the accessory bid violation on Lot 15 North Stevenson Ave. resulted from a lot line being changed. He will continue following up on this.

He expects work on the roof at 100 Chicago Street to continue now that the weather is getting better.

As to a pending condemnation order for a building at 171 Emery Street, he had a call from an attorney representing the estate indicating that the buyer seems to have lost interest. Two of the three personal representatives for the estate feel it should be razed, but they are waiting for input from the third, who lives out of the area. He had agreed with the attorney's request that they get an extra couple of weeks to get things organized.

An ordinance violation order for a roof problem at 180 Beebe Ave has been complied with and the violation is eliminated.


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841 Maple St
PO Box 187
Peshtigo, WI 54157
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