9 Albert Lea homes still have drainage problems; 23 still need to be inspected

Published 9:58 am Monday, February 24, 2014

About 4 percent of houses inspected as part of Albert Lea’s sanitary sewer program have failed the inspection, according to city officials.

Of that number, problems still exist at nine nine houses, said City Engineer Steven Jahnke. Twenty-three houses still need to be inspected.

The Inflow and Infiltration Sanitary Sewer Line Inspection Program — deemed “I&I” for short — requires all houses in the city built before 1975 to 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 is reported to the city.

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The program, started in 2007, aims to prevent the treatment plant from reaching full capacity and backing up into people’s homes during times of heavy rain.

Jahnke said at the beginning about 5,362 homes needed an inspection. Though plumbers found problems in less than 5 percent of the homes, he said he anticipates it to help the treatment plant “significantly.”

“It doesn’t seem like a big number, but when it’s wet and raining it doesn’t take a whole lot of water,” he said.

The cost of the initial inspections have been paid for by the city. The city budgeted $660,000 for the project.

If any additional work needs to be completed to eliminate cross connections to the sanitary sewer, homeowners have been given the option to pay the plumber outright or to have the cost assessed to the property over a five-year period.

The city is charging homeowners $50 a month where the inspections have not been completed. Jahnke encouraged those who have not completed the inspection to do so.

Those people can call any licensed plumber to get on the list. The program is part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate inflow and infiltration.

With spring coming and the likelihood of a heavy snow melt, the problem of sanitary sewers spilling into storm sewers can affect area lakes, as well.