While a lawsuit has been filed against the Brush Creek Sewer District, the contractor who installed the system said last week that there are no problems with the construction.
The system is “100 percent” quality and should not have failure, said Stephen Unnerstall with Unnerstall Contracting Company of Pacific.
“I don’t think anything needs fixing,” Unnerstall said.
He met with the sewer district trustees to discuss the system as officials work to identify problems.
The three county commissioners — John Griesheimer, Tim Brinker and Mike Schatz — also serve as the sewer district’s trustees.
During the meeting, County Clerk Debbie Door via speaker phone asked Unnerstall questions about the construction of the system, which was installed around 2004.
Door said it has been “alluded to that there may be some problems with the way the initial lines were laid.”
Recently, a comment was made that it would cost just as much to fix the sewer system as it did to install it, Door added.
Griesheimer said there have been rumors that the sewer lines were improperly installed.
But Unnerstall said the people who say such things do not know what they are talking about.
The sewer district trustees are trying to figure out how the system got so “screwed up,” Brinker said.
But Unnerstall said he does not think the system is flawed.
Brinker added that he has heard that the sewer system construction plans are completely different from what was actually built.
But Unnerstall said he is not aware of any large deviations that occurred between the plans and the actual construction.
Door said she is not an expert on sewer systems but said she thinks Unnerstall did a “good job” installing the lines and was always “open and honest” about problems that occurred.
Another worry is that the system’s manholes were lower than the grade of the land, allowing stormwater to drain into the pipes, Door said.
“I don’t remember any manholes being below grade,” Unnerstall said. “If someone regraded something, I don’t know where you’re talking about.”
Not the Problem
Unnerstall said the sewer district’s system is not the problem.
The city of Pacific sued the sewer district alleging breach of contract. Specifically, Pacific charges that the sewer district routinely goes over the amount of discharge that is allowed to be sent to the city’s wastewater plant for treatment.
Pacific City Administrator Harold Selby has said that rainwater and runoff get into the sewer district pipes during storms, causing extra discharge to the city’s treatment facility.
Unnerstall said the infiltration of groundwater into the system is coming from old clay pipes that are connected to the Brush Creek system.
These old pipes could be in subdivisions such as West Ridge northwest of Pacific, Unnerstall said. Exposed pipes in several trailer parks are also thought to be a source of the rainwater infiltration.
“You just need to find the infiltration area,” Unnerstall said. “It’s going to be a tough one.”
Unnerstall suggested replacing the old clay pipes with new lines, but he does not know how much money that would cost. However, loans could be available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said. The infiltration problems are linked to privately owned lines, Unnerstall said.
Griesheimer said the problems need to be rooted out and stopped, adding, “This thing’s a mess.”
Schatz said he does not know why fixing the problems has become so complicated. “It’s not rocket science,” Schatz said.
Griesheimer brought up the recent sewage overflow that occurred at the Shaw Nature Reserve in January. Water District No. 3, which manages the sewer district’s maintenance, investigated the overflow and found that a sewer line end cap came off or had been accidentally left in the line, Griesheimer said.
“What started this whole thing was an end cap that somehow got into the system and plugged up the line and caused the overflow,” Griesheimer said.
Unnerstall said he “can’t imagine what kind of cap” could have been left in the system. There certainly was not a cap left in a manhole, he added.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued a notice of violation to the sewer district for the overflow but eventually cleared the district of any fine.