St. Louis is among the U.S. cities where millions of gallons of sewage has flowed into rivers and streams causing a growing concern for better resources to handle this influx. St. Louis and other cities that have trouble handling heavy rains, are implementing better procedures in order to address the dilemma. Recent research has concluded that within the span of approximately a year, the city has encountered more than 60 sewer overflows. The aging combined sewer systems, which exist in many Northeastern and Midwest cities, are in a state of disrepair, thereby increasing the risk of a major overflow. In some cases, the combination of untreated sewage and storm runoff has overflowed into nearby waterways, by way of outfall pipes, or into streets flowing up through storm drains or manholes.
The city plans to spend up to $4 billion- over the next two decades- to repair the county’s sewer system. The upgrades will include rehabilitating old pipes, as well as, the construction of nine large underground tunnels to expand capacity for the city. The primary focus for this effort is to revitalize and protect the city’s infrastructure, homes and businesses. While the city is implementing several safeguarding procedures and sewage system improvements, heavy rains will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. An increase in global warming is also thought to be part of the reason for the increase of dramatic rain events. The city is now evaluating the steps that can be taken to reduce the impact of climate change. Environmental coordinators have suggested that the St. Louis area needs a more comprehensive approach to climate resiliency, such as the use of rain gardens, and other environmentally friendly measures to divert rainwater from sewer systems. Green infrastructure, green space and planting trees have all become a popular and useful means to capture water.
A side note: recently, Lake St. Louis experienced sewer back-ups and other issues due to a camera which became stuck in a pipeline. During a recent assessment of the city’s sewer lines, the camera was lodged in a 10-inch sewer pipe in one of the two lakes contained within Lake St. Louis. City employees have completed the necessary bypass pumping around the lake. When incidents occur that may provoke a sewer overflow, it’s advisable for homeowners to move valuables from basements to higher ground, as a precautionary measure.
Peaceful Valley Lake is a residential Missouri neighborhood known for being a quiet getaway for tourists and an agreeable location to reside. Along with the calm nature of the town, the lake community is aiming to bring down ammonia levels discharged from the community’s lagoon. The completion for this task could take up to a year and a half. Property owners have been working to resolve lagoon discharge issues over the recent years. The city is currently reviewing potential strategies to fund the needed updates, as well as, working to map the lines and identify problems through smoke testing. The process for testing the sewer lines includes setting up a gas powered blower over manholes, blowing smoke into the branch (line) and determining whether there is smoke coming out of the ground. Nearly 100 manholes and 36,000 feet of sewer mains have been located. Additionally, volunteers will be doing some brush clearing in the next few weeks in an effort to find the remaining lines.
After rain events of two-plus-inches in area neighborhoods within the St. Louis region, manholes are being opened in order for flow observations. Given the size of the system, the work to uncover faulty areas of the pipeline is expected to take several weeks. This month workers cleaned out the sewer pipes removing roots and debris in preparation for sealing the older pipes with Cured-in-Place Pipeline. The main goal is to keep wet weather events from inundating the sewer system, causing overflows and sewage backups. Taking the necessary preventative measures in advance can curb the likelihood of flooding and damage to residences, including but not limited to, back up issues in a homeowner’s basement. The utility has been inspecting its sanitary sewer pipes with a camera and also checking lateral lines that run from the main to individual homes.
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The City of Columbia has an extensive sewer rehabilitation project in the development process. The project will begin along Flat Branch, installing a new pipeline from Lakeshore drive to Elm Street. The sewer renovations will include construction of 5,530 ft. of 30-42 in. diameter gravity sewer. This will replace the smaller diameter lines. Currently, it is estimated that the maximum capacity of the sewer pipe is 3,800 gallons per minute. Residents have sustained overflows due to heavy rain and the instability of the pipeline. The city is working with engineers who are planning a start date for the project in December or possibly January of this year. The strategy in planning a late in the year start date for renovations has to do with fewer people using the nature/fitness trail, as well as fewer community events schedules at Flat Branch Park. Some pipes that have deteriorated are older than 100 years old, consisting of clay. Cracks in the pipes allow rain to enter the sanitary sewer system and cause overflows, a problem known as inflow and infiltration. The expectation of the enhanced sewer is to accommodate additional development in the future. It is also a means to reduce the sewer utility’s maintenance costs over time. There are several remaining phases that will be implemented after the completion of the first phase. The second phase of the project will install a new sewer line near providence Road and Turner Avenue. The estimated cost will be approximately $410,000. The third and fourth phase will involve new sewer lines along Elm and 6th Streets, as well as sections along 4th and 5th Streets.
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