87 homes fail the city sewer inspection

Published 11:10 am Thursday, June 25, 2009

Out of the nearly 3,000 inspections conducted thus far for the city’s sanitary-sewer-line efforts, 87 have failed, City Engineer Steven Jahnke said Monday during the Albert Lea City Council meeting.

Forty-five percent of homes still need to be inspected, and 43 homes had inspections that were not able to be completed, Jahnke said.

This means that about 3 percent of homes have failed the inspection — a percentage that is close to the estimates the city’s engineering department made when the program was first introduced, he said. These homes contribute a significant amount to the sewer system, causing the city to have to treat more water than necessary at its treatment plant.

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The city’s name for the effort is the Inflow and Infiltration Sanitary Sewer Line Inspection Program.

Albert Lea City Manager Victoria Simonsen said when extra water flows into the sanitary sewer system, the city still has to treat that water. This costs taxpayers extra money to be treating water that’s going into the wrong system.

The program aims to solve this problem by preventing the treatment plant from reaching full capacity and backing up into people’s homes during times of heavy rain.

Under the program, all houses in the city built before 1975 — which totals about 5,400 homes — must be checked for foundation drains that are connected to the sanitary sewer.

Plumbers conduct video inspections of each drain, and if a connection is found, it will be properly displaced.

Local plumbers are conducting the inspections.

The cost of the initial inspections are paid for by the city. Then, if any additional work needs to be completed, homeowners will be given the option to pay the plumber outright or have the cost assessed to their property over a five-year period.

The nearly 3,000 inspections conducted thus far have totaled about $380,000.

Jahnke said plumbers are hoping to complete all of the homes that have been scheduled to be inspected by August, but there are still 1,195 homeowners who have still not scheduled an inspection.

In August, the city will mail out letters to homeowners who have not scheduled an inspection, and as the program draws near the end, he said he will be asking the council to take action to get the remaining homes inspected.