June 24, 2019

Madison's 2019 wastewater emergency still in effect - Daily Leader Extra : Local News

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Madison's 2019 wastewater emergency still in effect

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Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2019 3:17 pm

When it comes to this spring's sanitary-sewer emergency in Madison -- which is still in effect after more than four weeks -- city officials have their decision-making process for calling it off stuck in a loop. When massive amounts of wastewater flowing through the system start dropping to manageable levels, another storm arrives to push more water into the city's treatment plant.

According to Brad Lawrence, Madison's utility director, city officials were thinking about lifting the emergency declaration late last week, but Lake County was threatened by new rainstorms. Lawrence said the soil in the Madison area is still saturated with water and the half-inch of rainfall last weekend slowed progress. Lawrence said the situation has city officials and area residents in "uncharted territory."

"We're in a situation that we've really never dealt with in recent times," Lawrence said. "We keep getting stuck between we're going to lift (the emergency), but there's rain coming soon."

Lawrence said the city's wastewater-treatment plant is currently processing about 1 million gallons of water each day. He and the plant's staff would prefer to have a "capacity gap" in place that offers adequate breathing space between flow amounts and an overloaded wastewater system.

Lawrence agrees with everyone else who has looked at this spring's flooding problems -- the ground is saturated with water and the soil can't absorb large amounts of precipitation.

Madison officials want to call off the sanitary-sewer emergency this week. However, some weather forecasts have 3 to 4 inches of rainfall arriving during the next several days.

The most recent forecast predicts rainfall in the local area Tuesday through Wednesday could amount to 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches with more on Thursday.

At mid-May, city officials reminded residents that the emergency remained in effect and urged them to continue limiting domestic water use that entered Madison's sanitary-sewer system. They also reminded residents to route all sump-pump discharge lines to the street storm sewers and not into household drains.

In addition, all sewer-system users were urged to curtail their use of the municipal sewer system "until further notice."

On April 17, at the start of the emergency declaration, all sump-pump users were instructed to discharge their outflow lines into the streets, the city storm sewer or other free-flowing drainage area. Madison residents were also asked to curtail their use of washing machines and dishwashers and any other practices that involve large volumes of water.

Madison residents dumping their sump pump outflows into the system were pointed out as some of the main culprits for the heavy load of work at the wastewater plant. On April 22, the city commissioners heard the first reading of changes to an ordinance that will enact a $50-per-day penalty for homeowners who discharge sump pump water into the municipal sanitary-sewer system between April and October.

Also adding to the problem, some groundwater was leaking into the city's wastewater system through breaks in underground sanitary-sewer pipes.

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