Collecting data and creating an engineering plan will be
approximately 40 percent of the total cost involved to address
stormwater overflow. The city has been advised to expect an
investment of approximately $1.2 million for the project when all is
said and done.
At the Dec. 10 council meeting, city administrator
Sue McLaughlin broke down where the anticipated costs of the full
project would go. The various components of the project include
$550,000 to CMT for engineering plans, $200,000 to $300,000 for GIS
mapping, $75,000 for flow and rain monitoring equipment, and
$150,000 for environmental studies and field verification.
McLaughlin also plugged in $125,000 for other expenses related to
the project. She ended by saying these were all "plus or minus"
figures that could change as the project progressed.
The city of Lincoln currently has what is referred to as a
combined sewer system. This means that raw sewage and stormwater
runoff travel to the waste treatment plant on the city's south edge
in one underground pipe. This is a situation that is unacceptable
according to both state and federal Environmental Protection Agency
The city of Lincoln is one of only 700 communities in the United
States that still has a combined sewer system.
The city has for the last few years been addressing and
correcting this issue as it has redone city streets. Most recently,
the one block of Pulaski Street that was completed in late November
included running separated sewer lines. As that project continues
into this spring and summer, the entire length of that road
reconstruction will include similar work.
Tim Ferguson, who is the waste treatment plant manager for the
city, discussed the project at the Dec. 10 meeting. He said the
first step in creating a plan would be to devise a model of the
current sewer lines.
The stormwater management model would include taking into account
sewer pipeline sizes, elevations and the areas that drain into the
lines. The model then calibrates the information into a specific
plan that identifies where water is coming from during storm events.
Ferguson said this is the nuts and bolts of the project. He said
that once the city can calibrate where water is coming from, then
the engineering firms can start looking at developing plans on how
to mitigate stormwater flowing into the sewer system and can
identify where sewer separation may be necessary or if there needs
to be an additional treatment facility.
He said Prairie Engineers has already completed the first section
of the GIS mapping of the wards. He said there would need to be
field verification of the pipe sizes.
Ferguson explained that flow monitoring equipment needs to be
installed inside the sewer system. The equipment would monitor the
flow of water running through the system during a storm event.
Environmental studies would determine the flow into Salt Creek
and Brainard's Branch and what effects stormwater has on those
Ferguson said there would also be requirements for public
meetings regarding the studies and plan, and there would be
operation and maintenance plan updates that reflect the findings of
On hand at the meeting on Dec. 10 was Christy Crites of CMT, who
also discussed the plan with the council. She noted that CMT is very
well experienced with doing this type of work and confident they can
give the city a good final product.
She said the long-term control plan was requested by the federal
EPA and administered by the state EPA. The push started with larger
communities and has now "trickled down" to the smaller cities. She
said the project is all about controlling pollution in the natural
waterways. Currently, the plan is not mandated by the EPA but is
"strongly recommended." Eventually it will more than likely be a
She said the overall goal is to get the city to four or fewer
overflows within a one-year time frame.
She said CMT would create the model using actual data collected
from the city system. It would then be able to simulate how
stormwater events would affect the sewage system. She said running
the simulation with an accurate model would help to identify small
problems inside the system that can be fixed to improve performance
of the wastewater system.
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She told the council that the model is a key component of the
study. The four or less overflows per year will always be the
requirement. The city could invest a few million dollars into
upgrading the system, but if it does not hold the overflows to
four or less, it would be all to do over.
She said creating the model first, conducting the simulations and
studying the outcome would help the city do it right the first time.
Crites was asked about the flow monitoring equipment that would
be used to collect data. She said CMT will work with Ferguson but is
also looking at hiring a third-party firm to manage the equipment.
She said the flow monitoring equipment would be checked regularly to
make sure it is working properly. She also noted that equipment
today has alarm systems and signals incorporated into it to notify
personnel when there is a problem.
Bruce Carmitchel asked what the most common unpleasant surprise
might be when going through this process. The CMT representative
said the biggest challenge was getting good data, and that was also
the key to establishing the best model.
McLaughlin said that was one of the struggles the city has been
experiencing over the last few years.
The city first started talking about this stormwater situation in
2008. At that time David Kitzmiller was the overseer of the waste
treatment plant. He came to the council and presented information
about EPA-required monitoring of combined sewer overflow. The CSO
monitoring was a requirement wherein the city had to collect samples
of overflow from six storm events in a year. However, there were
guidelines that included 10-day waiting periods between the events.
In the last five years, the weather has not cooperated. In some
years rains came too frequently, and in the last couple of years
there hasn't been enough rain to create six overflows.
Crites said the city is at the mercy of Mother Nature. But, she
said, if there is a plan in place, it is easier to go to the EPA and
get extensions on the monitoring. She said it would be key to
communicate with the EPA, and she noted that being close to
Springfield, officials in the EPA are going to know personally what
the weather conditions have been and how this has affected the
city's efforts to do the CSOs.
Once the official plan is completed, it will be submitted to the
EPA for approval. CMT anticipates having the plan completed by May
of 2015. Once the EPA reviews and approves the plan, that will set a
new clock into motion. The EPA will determine how much time it
should take the city to achieve all the goals set in the plan, and
the city will have to comply with their timelines.
During the multiple discussions regarding the long-term control
plan and its eventual implementation, it was mentioned that the EPA
can assist the city financially by first determining the scope of
work that will have to be done, the financial condition of the city
and its ability to pay for the project, and then set deadlines
accordingly. In addition, there may be loans that can be taken
through the EPA to assist in paying for the project.
The last major project the city of Lincoln did was an overhaul of
the waste treatment plant. That project was financed through an EPA
loan, on which they are still making annual payments.
When the city voted to adopt a utility tax, one of the points
made in the plan was that the tax could assist in paying for
long-term sewer improvements.
There is also the option of creating a stormwater utility tax.
When this was first discussed, none of the aldermen were in favor of
imposing another tax on the city's residents and businesses.
Finally, the cost of the long-term plan and the subsequent work
on the city sewer systems could be paid by an increase in the sewer
When all this was discussed, McLaughlin said that the best plan
would be to wait and see what is going to be needed, figure out how
much it is going to cost, then address how to cover the costs.
There is currently $150,000 in the city budget for sewer work.
That amount can help cover costs between now and the end of the
fiscal year on April 30.
During the coming fiscal year budget process, the city will need
to include the balance of the $550,000 and the method to pay at
least for the first portion.
[By NILA SMITH]