A full review of the problems with the Brush Creek sewer system should be completed by the end of this month.

The report also will include a cost estimate to fix the problems, said John Griesheimer, president of the Brush Creek Sewer District, which serves about 439 customers.

Representatives with Water District No. 3, which manages the Brush Creek Sewer system, are conducting the inspection and met with the sewer trustees Wednesday.

Problems Identified

The review of the sewer system is already 75 percent done, and once complete will be a great resource to help correct problems, officials say.

“The bulk of the district has been covered,” Water District No. 3 Operations Manager Bob Hathcock said.

Hathcock added, “We think we will be completed and be able to give you a comprehensive report on what needs to be done and what we (water district) can do versus what you need to get a contractor to do,” Hathcock said.

The sewer district trustees asked for a review of the system last month as the city of Pacific put legal pressure on the district to fix the problems.

Pacific last month sued the Brush Creek Sewer District over alleged problems with the system. Pacific treats wastewater from the Brush Creek district and claims that the sewer district is in violation of the contract.

One of the main claims in the lawsuit is that the sewer district routinely exceeds the amount of discharge that Pacific has agreed to treat. Pacific officials say this is linked to rainwater entering the system because of faulty sealing and other deficiencies.

The alleged excess flows put stress on the city’s treatment plant, Pacific officials say.

Hathcock agreed that improper sealing of manholes has caused rainwater infiltration. In other cases, Hathcock said, manholes are sunken, causing runoff to pour into the sewer pipes.

And in an extreme case, a manhole cover was removed in the Gray Summit area with a PVC pipe running to the open manhole. This also presented a danger because someone could fall in the open manhole, sewer district trustee Tim Brinker said.

Repairs Made

Water District No. 3 General Manager Mike Dougherty said several manholes have already been repaired with better rings and lids to stop rainwater from entering the system.

Likewise, he said problems with exposed sewer pipes have been corrected by capping them to prevent water from entering the system. This was a problem at old mobile homes sites. Mobile homes had been moved, but the sewer pipes were left exposed to rainwater.

The next step, Dougherty said, is to review flow information after the repairs to see if there has been improvement.

Also, he said the system will soon be smoke tested to identify other leaks in the pipes and manholes.

Overall, Dougherty said the Brush Creek Sewer District has a good system, and improving it is an ongoing effort.

Making Things Right

Griesheimer said the efforts to fix the problems with the system should demonstrate to Pacific that the sewer district is committed to making things right.

“It shows that we’re serious,” Griesheimer said.

Griesheimer said the state Department of Natural Resources had also asked the sewer district to begin addressing problems with the system after a January sewage overflow at the Shaw Nature Reserve.

The cost to fix the problems will fall on the sewer district and its ratepayers, Griesheimer said.

“The ratepayers are the ones that bear the cost of the system,” Griesheimer said.

Rates will have to go up at least temporarily to cover the cost of system repairs, Griesheimer said. At this time, without knowing how much repairs will cost, Griesheimer said he does not know how much rates will rise.

The repairs could be done over several years to help the ratepayers absorb the cost, Griesheimer said.

Assigning Blame

Hathcock disputed one of the larger claims made by the city of Pacific’s lawsuit. The city claims that sewage has backed up in Pacific residents’ basements because of extreme flows sent from the district.

But Hathcock said he believes the sewage backups are not from the district but from problems with the city of Pacific’s own sewer system.

“If it’s backing up, I’m thinking that problem is caused by their (system) not your (system),” Hathcock said.

Griesheimer said it is easy for Pacific to blame the sewer district. Griesheimer added that he does not think it is the sewer district’s fault that sewage has reportedly backed up in basements.

Trustee Mike Schatz said he did not put a lot of stock into that allegation either.

Griesheimer said he would also like to tour the sewer system by way of four-wheeler type vehicles with the other trustees.

During the Wednesday meeting, the Brush Creek trustees also wrote off $4,257 in unpaid sewer bills as bad debt. However, Hathcock said collection services may still be able to collect some of that debt even after it is written off.