McGregor seeks fix for wastewater discharge

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

An ongoing wastewater discharge on McGregor’s Main Street that’s eventually flowing into the Mississippi River is forcing the city to find a temporary fix to its sewer main infiltration and inflow problems.

According to Amber Sauser, environmental specialist senior at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Manchester field office, the wastewater bypass was first reported on March 14, and bypassing of the wastewater treatment plant has continued at either Main Street or other locations since then.

“Inflow and infiltration into the wastewater collection system, commonly referred to as I&I, is the cause of the bypass,” said Sauser. “The city has reported a volume of 50,000 to 100,000 gallons per day of wastewater being pumped directly to the river from the Main Street location. Bypassing of untreated wastewater is a violation.”

The problem has also necessitated the pump near the intersection of Main and B streets for the past several months. 

At a recent council meeting, McGregor Street Supervisor Ren Pape said he hoped the pump could be removed as the Mississippi River dropped, but found that, within hours, the flow rate became too much for the plant to handle, resulting in flooding in property owners’ basements. The main culprit is not the river, but the ground water. The pump on Main Street is handling 150,000 gallons per day, he noted.

“As soon as it was shut off,” said city administrator Lynette Sander, “water rose 32 inches in the manhole” within no time.

“We are taking it seriously,” and trying to come up with solutions to the problem, she assured.

The city recently selected an engineering firm for its proposed Main Street sewer project, which may include replacement of sewer mains and manholes, the addition of manholes, and the exploration of options to correct issues related to a siphon located at Main and A streets that must move sewage from lower Main Street under the historic storm sewer channel that is located on A Street. But that’s a longer term solution.

“In addition,” said Sander,  “we’re looking at anything we can do now as a short-term fix,”

Sauser said that could include a temporary reroute of the discharge to another manhole or lift station.

The engineer is also looking into having the sewer lines televised, to see if they can pinpoint any issues that can be dealt with right away, Sander noted.

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