Official Disputes Large Sewer Bill From Pacific - The Missourian: Local News

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Official Disputes Large Sewer Bill From Pacific

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Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013 5:00 pm

The Brush Creek Sewer District was recently hit with a large bill from the city of Pacific.

“We’re disputing the bill,” said John Griesheimer, the sewer district’s president.

The sewer district, which is overseen by the three county commissioners, recently received a bill for $12,200 from Pacific.

Normally, the monthly bill is around $5,000 to $6,000, Griesheimer said.

The previous month’s bill was $8,025, said Pacific City Administrator Harold Selby.

Bill Disputed

Water District No. 3, which manages the sewer district, has provided numbers that dispute what is in Pacific’s bill, Griesheimer said.

The bill is due May 5, and it is for the period of Feb. 28 to March 31.

The disputed numbers deal with how much volume went from the sewer district to Pacific’s wastewater treatment plant. Pacific may be charging the sewer district for too much volume, Griesheimer said.

Sewer district officials will have to do research to determine whether Pacific’s bill is accurate, Griesheimer added.

Pacific treats the wastewater from the sewer district under a contract.

Pacific last month sued the sewer district, alleging that the contract has been breached.

It could be that Pacific’s bill is correct, Griesheimer said. But he said that may be the highest bill the sewer district has gotten from the city since 2006.

If Pacific’s bill is correct, the sewer district will pay it, he said.

Sewer Problems

Selby said the bill is high because of large amounts of rainfall that occurred in March.

He noted that more volume from the sewer district comes to the city’s wastewater plant when there is rain.

That is because rainwater and runoff enters the sewer system and is then discharged into the city’s treatment plant, Selby said.

Under the contract between the city and the sewer district only 200,000 gallons is allowed to be sent to Pacific’s wastewater treatment plant each day, Selby said.

But last week there was about 775,000 gallons from the sewer district sent to the city’s plant in one day, Selby said.

For the month that Pacific charged the sewer district $12,200, 6,289,000 gallons were sent to the city treatment plant, Selby said. And the previous month, 4.1 million gallons were sent to the plant, he said.

“It varies so much depending on the rain,” Selby said.

The sewer district says that the limit under the contract is not 200,000 gallons a day, but instead a daily average every month of 200,000. So under the sewer district’s reasoning, there could actually be more than 200,000 gallons on some days as long as the daily average at the end of the month does not exceed 200,000 gallons.

Continued Costs

Selby said he thinks the April bill will be even larger because of the high amount of rain this month. But Griesheimer said Pacific officials have made false statements in the past.

The sewer district has had trouble paying its bills, and this month borrowed $25,000 from Franklin County.

Griesheimer said he hopes the sewer district’s finances will improve once a rate hike takes effect June 1.

Also, he said he hopes the sewer district can save money by cracking down on people who illegally use the system.

The Brush Creek Sewer District is working on identifying problems with the sewer system to prevent the infiltration of rainwater.

Meanwhile, Selby said the problems cost Pacific and the sewer district. The sewer district has to pay more for the additional volume that has to be treated. And the city has extra costs in the form of manpower and equipment, Selby said.

“It is expensive to treat this waste to make sure everything flows properly,” Selby said.

For instance, Selby said the city has to pay workers overtime to inspect manholes to make sure they are not overflowing during heavy rains because of the Brush Creek Sewer District’s system problems.

During recent rains, the city sent workers around to city manholes to make sure they were not backing up with water, Selby said. If they back up, the workers have to pump some of the volume into other manholes.

The manholes are pumped to prevent wastewater from backing up in city residents’ basements, Selby said. The city in its lawsuit claims that previous high flows from the sewer district are linked to wastewater backups.

The sewer district disputes this claim, and Griesheimer said if such backups are occurring it is because of Pacific’s own sewer system, not Brush Creek’s.

“It’s pretty easy to blame everything on us,” Griesheimer said. “That’s a ruse.”

In the recent rains, there have been no basement backups, but Selby said he thinks this is because the city has been pumping the manholes.

Selby added that the city had to buy a new pump to handle this work, and that expense was not charged to the sewer district.

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