Mayor Steve Myers said he’s considering asking aldermen to contract with a qualified engineering firm to perform an overall evaluation of the city’s aging sewer system, including lines, lift stations and the sewage lagoon.

Myers discussed the system with The Missourian after Alderman Ed Gass, former public works director, voiced concerns at the May 15 board of aldermen meeting. Gass said needed maintenance on the sewer system was being postponed too long.

Gass is concerned not only that repairs are not being made, but that the city did not know the best remedy or the cost of needed repairs.

“We have to figure out what it’s going to cost us to fix this,” he said.

Gass suggested assigning an engineer to study the needs at lift station 2 where occasional heavy inflow causes wastewater to surge out of the manhole and flow into the nearby creek untreated.

The infiltration and inflow (I&I) appears to be storm water that enters the Brush Creek Sewer District lines and is deposited into the Pacific system.

Speaking at the same meeting, City Administrator Steve Roth also said the surge at the manholes is unacceptable and must be remedied.

Gass said there are several different remedies that could reduce the amount of wastewater going into the lift station, but an engineer is needed to determine how effective each remedy would be and what it would cost.

“We can only fix what we can afford to fix,” he said. “But we need to know what the cost is going to be.”

Gass has suggested excavating a detention pond to take the excess flow that usually occurs following heavy rain and allow the collected wastewater to flow into the lines slowly when the rain recedes.

He also wants the city to look into the cost of extending a direct line from the Brush Creek inflow area to the lagoon, bypassing the lift station.

“What that would do is eliminate the wastewater backing up into basements in the Cedars subdivision,” he said. “Those people have been plagued with wastewater backing into their basements for several years.”

Myers said he has discussed Gass’ concerns with Roth and the two are in agreement that an overall plan is needed, rather than one step at a time.

“We (Myers and Roth) believe that the best approach is to hire an engineer to do an overall evaluation of the entire sewer system,” Myers said.

The mayor said Roth is reviewing the experience of several engineering firms to determine which might be best suited to study the Pacific system. A request for engineering services would have to be approved by the board of aldermen.

The city has faced extensive repairs at the city sewage lagoon following two recent floods that washed out a great deal of the lagoon infrastructure.

The city’s wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), located on South Denton Road, flooded in December 2015 and April-May 2017.

The 2015 flood destroyed the UV disinfectant equipment and severely damaged the existing aeration system. The repairs are eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster funding.

The four-cell, aerated lagoon system treats approximately 1 million gallons of wastewater per day, but it’s designed and has a DNR permit to treat 2 million gallons per day.

The lagoon does not perform to full capacity due to the build up of sludge in all four cells.

Two cells in particular, cell 1 and cell 2, have been slated for sludge removal. Combined, the two cells contain more than 8,600 tons of dry sludge, which will be removed and stored in an unused cell for later.

It will be the first sludge removal since the sewage lagoon went into operation and promises to greatly increase performance of the system.

Bartlett & West, Jefferson City, created a wastewater master plan, which aldermen approved in February 2017.

“It is a complicated system and our biggest problem is that we (mayor and aldermen) do not know enough about how everything works,” Myers said. 

The mayor hosted a tour of the lagoon April 18 as the first in a series of visits by officials to learn the ins and outs of city operations.

Public Works Commissioner Robert Brueggemann led the tour explaining how the lagoon aeration system takes waste water through a screening process and sends it through aerated cells and ultra violet rays before it is clean enough to be released into the Meramec River.

Myers said he plans similar tours at the city’s sewer system lift stations.