No temporary fix for McGregor sewer issues

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

The city of McGregor’s hopes to find a temporary fix for its sewer infiltration and inflow problems have been dashed. 

Mark Davy, with Davy Engineering, said his company has considered four or five different alternatives to give the community some breathing room until a larger-scale sewer improvement project for the 100 to 600 blocks of Main Street can be completed, but none will remedy the situation, which has resulted in eventual wastewater discharges to the Mississippi River.

“We looked at lining, we looked at a grouting process, we looked at de-watering and we invested some money in some soil boring to see how this is going to work,” Davy told the city council at its Oct. 16 meeting. “Long story short is, it needs to be replaced.”

Lining, he explained, would mean digging up every single lateral and re-connecting them. Grouting would be ineffective because the pipe is too long and simply has too many holes and perforations. De-watering won’t work because of the amount of clay surrounding the pipe. 

“We did everything we can. We’ve talked to the DNR and we’ve let them know that nobody wants to stop bypassing as much as we do at this point. It’s obviously a huge hassle for the community,” Davy said. “But we just don’t have any good alternatives. It’s just going to cost you too much money for a temporary fix you’re going to tear out.”

Davy said some of the inflow and infiltration problems can be attributed to high Mississippi River levels. Artesian wells, or springs in the ground, are causing most of the issues, however.

“It’s been a much wetter year this year than it has in previous years,” Davy explained.

“There are springs popping up in places we’ve never had them,” added mayor Lyle Troester.

This water is infiltrating the clay and gravel bedding surrounding the pipe, then eventually breaching the pipe itself.

“It follows that pipe all the way down and goes in all the holes in the pipe and goes to your treatment plant. That’s essentially what’s happening out there,” Davy said.

And that pipe is leaking significantly.

“One stretch of pipe, we’re estimating it’s leaking at a rate of approximately 200,000 gallons per day. Literally streams of water, 20 gallons per minute, coming out of the sides of that pipe, squirting into that pipe,” Davy continued. “That’s all going directly to your wastewater treatment plant, and you’re having difficulty down there as well.” 

With this amount of water, councilman Charlie Carroll wondered if the pump on Main Street, which since this spring has worked to prevent basement backups and take pressure off the treatment plant, will have to run all winter, or simply on an as-needed basis.

“My suspicion is it’ll dry out during the winter, and hopefully the pump can be pulled out,” Davy responded. “But it is going to have to be used on an as-needed basis.”

 One of the concerns, said Troester, is that the Iowa Department of Transportation will not allow the iron grate, which allows the pump to reach into the manhole in the middle of the street without blocking a lane of traffic, to be on the street during the winter.

“So that would mean we’d have to do something with the pump and the line,” he stated. “We’ve never had the pump off. And we’ve added two pumps now.”

The pump equipment could also create a safety hazard, and Troester worried how it would respond to extreme cold.

“I hope it gets better,” Davy said. “Maybe what we need to do is talk to the [city workers] about putting in a more convenient way to pump.”

In the meantime, the council gave Davy the go-ahead to begin the design phase for the larger-scale project. He expects to have a preliminary report completed in November. That doesn’t mean the project will happen right away, though. Funding will likely hold it up, Davy said.

“We did talk with the funding agency, and even with submittal in January, she finds it unlikely that we’ll be able to bid this thing in the spring and construct it right away next year. We have to have that discussion with DNR as well,” he noted. “We’re going to try to have minimal plans and specs ready to go by April, but if the funding’s not there, we may have to hold it. You’ve got to do their timeline.”

Davy said he’ll try to rush the process a bit from the design perspective and get the necessary approvals from the state.

“I want to try to have all my stuff out of the way so we’re ready to move forward right away when we get the funding package put together,” he assured.

City makes pledge to splash pad project

The Ports of Discovery Great Places Committee is working to submit a grant application for funding for the Turner Park splash pad food service/restroom facility project. In addition to funds held in the Turner Park improvement savings account, the council approved a $70,000 pledge from the city as matching funds for phases I and II of the project.

Residents concerned about no parking proposal

Several residents are concerned about the city’s proposed plans to prohibit parking on a portion of Prospect Street during the winter months. Street supervisor Ren Pape had suggested the ordinance change last month, noting that it would make snow removal on the narrow street easier. 

Property owners Harry Walk and Andrea Oppermann, who both live on nearby Ann Street, said it would force homeowners and tenants in the area to walk a block to get from their cars to their homes, and vice versa. Some people have no off-street parking available.

“I think it’s overreacting,” Walk said. “None of us have issues pulling our cars off. We want the road plowed correctly.”

The city’s attorney, Mike Schuster, said a compromise might be to add the section of Prospect into the 48-hour no parking following 2 inches or more of snow, allowing snow plows to clear the streets without vehicles in the way.

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