The city of Peru estimates it needs $4.5 million in sewer improvements to protect residents from basement sewer backups during heavy rains, as happened April 18 and which led to a record-cresting Illinois River.
The city also urged residents to fix unorthodox connections on their property so that storm water stays out of sanitary sewage pipes.
Both will be needed to prevent basement damage during extreme rains like the 5.44 inches that fell April 17-18, said Mike Perry of Chamlin & Associates, engineering consultant for the city, at Monday morning’s public works meeting and a public forum, the second one in two weeks, prior to Monday night’s council meeting.
Most backups were in the Marquette Road area and in the St John’s subdivision/Plum and Rock street area, he said.
Immediate solutions are to repair isolated blockages and sewage collapses and breaks, use emergency pumps and install flow monitors. The council Monday approved buying three monitors for $13,680, which will be used along the Marquette Road sanitary sewer.
Remote camera inspections and cleaning of critical areas has already begun and will continue by the city, Illinois Valley Excavating and Chamlin & Associates, Perry said.
Smoke testing of sanitary sewers systems to identify leaks and infiltration spots has begun as well. The city discovered a 6-inch sanitary sewer cleanout pipe with the top knocked off in a ditch near Wenzel Road and found leaky manhole covers, both which allow storm water straight into sanitary sewers.
Installing and/or replacing sanitary sewers will take longer and cost more, Perry said. A Marquette Road relief sewer alone would cost $1.5 million, according to his list.
While sewer improvements are of interest to residents whose basements flooded, it was Perry’s and the public works committee’s recommended home fixes with an estimated price tag of $5,000 to homeowners that really grabbed residents’ attentions.
Many homes in the Marquette Road area were built in the 1960s-80s and fitted with foundation drains that direct rainwater and groundwater directly into sanitary sewer pipes, a no-no in modern storm water management.
This became publicized back in 2007-08 when the city experienced similar backups after a heavy rain.
A typical home with a footing tile in a 2.5-inch rainstorm can add 10 gallons of storm water per minute, Perry said. Multiply this by 20-30 homes in a neighborhood and that adds 200-300 gallons per minute to sanitary systems already overloaded with infiltration of storm water, he said.
“That’s a lot of water to take after a 5½-inch rain from a footing tile,” Perry said.
Homeowners could protect their basements and benefit their neighborhood and the city by fixing these, Perry said. The first step is to disconnect roof downspouts so they drain onto lawns and to disconnect footing tiles from sanitary sewers. The next two steps would add further protection: install a sump pump and install an ejector that isolates and handles basement sewage sources, such as a toilet and washing machine, to prevent backups.
All steps could cost $5,000 but would bring protection to 100 percent under the most extreme rains, Perry said. He was quick to point out that the city is not a private plumber and could not improve sewer services on private property. One homeowner at the meeting suggested neighborhoods contract together to get a reduced price.
Perry has visited about 70 percent of homes affected and talked with homeowners. For his efforts, the residents who attended Monday’s meeting thanked and applauded him.
Sewage problems thrust another problem onto the front burner: blowing grass clippings from lawn mowers onto streets. Grass and other yard debris clogs storm sewers. Alderman Dave Walforf of the public works committee and police chief Doug Bernabei, with the council’s approval, said that starting June 1 there will be a zero-tolerance approach to this city ordinance, which could result in $25 tickets to offending grass cutters.
Jeff Dankert can be reached at (815) 220-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.