The Pacific Board of Aldermen is “very close” to filing a lawsuit against the Brush Creek Sewer District, Pacific City Administrator Harold Selby said.
The three Franklin County commissioners — John Griesheimer, Tim Brinker and Mike Schatz — are the trustees of the Brush Creek Sewer District.
“Right now, between our board and the county, there is a problem with trust,” Selby told The Missourian Wednesday.
Selby said the sewer district has violated its contract with the city of Pacific over treating the sewage.
Selby said the contract states that no more than 200,000 gallons of sewage can come from the district daily to be treated by the city.
But Selby said the sewer district routinely goes over this amount causing sewage to back up in Pacific residents’ basements.
Franklin County Counselor Mark Vincent said he is not going to get into a debate in the newspaper about what is true or false.
Vincent added that the best way to resolve the issue is for the Brush Creek Sewer District trustees to sit down with Pacific city officials.
The Brush Creek Sewer District has extended an offer to meet with the city of Pacific but has received no response, Vincent said Wednesday.
Selby sent a letter to the trustees Wednesday seeking a commitment to fix the problems.
Depending on the response, Selby said the Board of Aldermen will decide whether to sue the sewer district, which serves 439 customers.
In 2009, there were 15-17 houses in Pacific that had sewage backups in their basements, and Selby blames the Brush Creek Sewer District.
But the city of Pacific has to pay the costs of fixing those homes, which can cost $10,000 apiece, Selby said.
The city’s wastewater treatment plant can only handle about 2 million gallons of sewage daily. When the sewer district exceeds its 200,000 gallon limit, it can max out the facility’s capacity, Selby added.
“It’s a big problem,” Selby said.
There have been days when Pacific’s treatment plant has gotten more than 1 million gallons of discharge from the Brush Creek Sewer District, Selby said.
Pacific residents generate about 800,000 to 900,000 gallons daily, he added.
Also, Selby said the sewer district violated another term of the contract recently when it connected the Travelodge hotel to the wastewater system without notifying Pacific.
“That trust was broken when the county hooked on that 90-plus room hotel and did not notify the city,” Selby said.
The contract requires that the city be notified when new commercial and industrial customers are added to the Brush Creek line, Selby said.
The hotel produces 12,000 to 18,000 gallons of sewage per day on its own, and the city’s treatment plant was already experiencing too much capacity before the business was added, Selby said.
“Where’s it going to stop?” Selby asked.
He said the county told him that the city was not notified about the hotel being added because the hotel was considered a residential property.
The Brush Creek sewer system has been in operation since 2007 and serves an area southwest of Pacific.
The threat of litigation against the sewer district comes after a recent sewage overflow at the Shaw Nature Reserve.
The fact that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources cited the sewer district for the overflow is further evidence that the system must be fixed, Selby said.
The sewage overflow, which occurred in January, released an estimated 38,000 gallons of wastewater, according to DNR.
The sewage eventually went into Brush Creek, which runs through the city of Pacific, Selby noted.
The DNR found the sewer system to be noncompliant with the Missouri Clean Water Law and issued a notice of violation to the sewer district.
In its response, the sewer district stated that the overflow was caused by a sewer line cap that was left in the pipe during construction.
But Selby said he thinks the cap was put on incorrectly and then got blown out by the extreme flows.
During the incident, sewage spread across a field before entering an unnamed tributary 30 feet from the manhole, according to the DNR inspection report.
The sewer district and Pacific must work together to correctly manage the sewer system, the DNR’s report states.
Selby said a big problem with the Brush Creek sewer system is that rainwater gets into the pipes.
Almost every time it rains, the sewer district goes over its capacity limit set in the contract, Selby said.
Even with last year’s drought, Selby said there were 17 times that the sewer district went over the limit. And he said it is not a matter of being a little over the limit, but hundreds of thousands of gallons.
This causes the city sewer treatment system to become overwhelmed with too much volume, Selby said.
“We know this spring when we get rain, we are going to be right back in the same situation,” Selby said.
Unless the sewer district can identify ways to fix the problems and start moving forward, the Pacific Board of Aldermen will likely be forced to sue, Selby said.
“It’s to the point we need to have things in writing,” Selby said.
But Selby said he wonders if the county has the money to fix the problems.
“This is so extensive and widespread, it’s going to be so expensive to repair,” Selby said. “Will the county have the funds to get this done?”
The sewer district itself has very limited revenue, Selby said. This year’s budget for the sewer district has $493,643 in expenditures.
Under a contrac t, Franklin Water District 3 handles the district’s billing, maintenance and customer service. The monthly contract cost fluctuates based on the amount of maintenance that is needed each month. Recently, the contract has fluctuated between $3,520 to $5,510 a month.
Seals on the sewer pipes could be inadequate, allowing for infiltration of groundwater, Selby said. Rain also enters the sewer from old mobile home sites that have pipes exposed, allowing precipitation to enter the system, Selby said.
In their response to the DNR violation notice, the county commissioners, acting as the Brush Creek Sewer District trustees, stated that they are working toward repairing obvious infiltration problems in the system.