Lawsuit Against Sewer District Moves Ahead - The Missourian: County

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Lawsuit Against Sewer District Moves Ahead

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 9:30 pm

Brush Creek Sewer District officials say they are making strides to address issues raised in a lawsuit brought by the city of Pacific.

But in a recent letter to the sewer district Pacific’s legal counsel says “nothing material” has been done to resolve alleged contract breaches.

“Unfortunately, it is clear that nothing material has been done to resolve any of the contract breaches discussed in the city’s lawsuit, no proposal has been made to address the other issues in the lawsuit and the plan is insufficient to resolve the ongoing issues with your sewer system” says the letter from David A. Streubel with the St. Louis law firm of Cunningham, Vogel & Rost.

The letter is not about trying to fix problems but about the city’s legal counsel making more money, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer asserted.

Pacific City Administrator Harold Selby agreed that the letter from the law firm was not free.

“The sooner we can get this resolved the better because the money that’s being spent by both sides on legal fees could be being spent for fixes to the system,” Selby said.

He did not know offhand how much Pacific has spent on legal fees related to the case but said the city will ask the sewer district to cover that cost.

County Counselor Mark Vincent said the sewer district has taken steps to address problems with the Brush Creek sewer system.

“We’ve got a heck of a plan under way,” Vincent said.

Vincent noted that the sewer district trustees had a review of the system conducted by Public Water Supply District No. 3 to identify problems. It is estimated that it will cost the sewer district under $200,000 to fix the remaining problems, Vincent added.

But Griesheimer said the sewer district does not have the money to make the repairs, which means some type of loan or financing would have to be pursued.

In order for the county to get any financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make repairs, there must be a professional engineering report to verify problems with the sewer system, Griesheimer added.

Therefore, Vincent said the sewer district is seeking proposals from engineering firms to review the water district’s report on the problems.

Time Wasted?

Selby said he thinks Pacific’s lawyers were upset because time has been wasted. Selby noted that the sewer district spent the summer having the water district review the system. But now it appears that time has been wasted because in order to get funding there must be an official engineering report on the problems, Selby said.

He acknowledged that the sewer district is taking steps to get that done.

“They had relied on the water district to do that study, but when it came down to it that time was all lost because in order to go after some funding to repair the problems it needed to be an (engineer’s) report,” Selby said. “We did lose some valuable time there.”

However, the water district’s inspections did identify some problems. For instance, officials believe the Pacific Summit Estates mobile home park is an area where significant rainwater infiltration into the system has occurred. The owner of the mobile home park is reportedly making repairs to address the issues. The mobile home park is responsible for fixing those problems since it owns the sewer lines within the mobile home park, a letter from Brush Creek to the owner of Pacific Summit Estates says.

Infiltration

Officials say the sewer system has infiltration problems that allow stormwater to enter the pipes, especially during heavy rains. This results in additional discharge going to Pacific’s wastewater treatment plant, which treats the sewer district’s wastewater under a contract.

Pacific’s lawsuit states that the sewer district has breached the contract with the city by exceeding the amount of discharge that is allowed to be sent to the plant.

Vincent said there is no evidence to suggest that the sewer district’s discharges have damaged the plant in any way.

The district’s alleged violation of flow limits has resulted in sewage backups in Pacific residents’ basements, Selby said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the sewer district violated the contract by hooking up the Travelodge Hotel in Gray Summit without getting permission from the city.

The letter from Pacific’s legal counsel states that the city has exercised “enormous patience” with the sewer district for a decade.

The county’s plan to fix the problems contains “no concrete actions,” and there is no assurance anything will be accomplished, the letter adds.

Griesheimer said the problems with the sewer district were in place before he or the other commissioners came into office. They can’t solve a decade’s worth of problems in a few months, he added.

“We’re doing all we can,” Griesheimer said.

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