The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

July 25, 2012

Clinton City Council approves control plan

CLINTON — The Clinton City Council on Tuesday approved the long-term control plan that stipulates the deadlines for completing projects mandated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency to fix the city’s combined sewer overflow problems.  

The CSO problems are caused by the city’s combined sewer system.

Clinton is one of only 772 cities in the U.S. to use a combined sewer overflow system, which the EPA calls a “remnant of the country’s early infrastructure,” typically found in older cities.

Combined sewer systems collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial waste in the same pipe and transport them all to a wastewater treatment plant where it is then deposited into a body of water. 

However, in the occasion of large wet weather events, the wastewater volume can exceed the capacity of the system. These systems are designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater directly to nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies.

This discharge is known as a combined sewer overflow and can deposit not only stormwater but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris into bodies of water, according to the EPA.  

The plan requires the city to spend an estimated $95 to $105 million over the next 25 years on various projects to reduce the amount of CSO events. This is an improvement from a 2010 estimate from city officials and DNR representatives that the plan would cost $235 million and need to be completed in 10 or 15 years.

 Work on the projects listed in the plan began on June 1 and will conclude in December 2037. Work includes sewer lining, slough repairs and cleaning, completing new pump stations, sewer separation and other expensive projects.

The city has been working with the Iowa DNR and Iowa State Attorney’s Office on the plan to establish a viable timeframe for completing the project.

Jane McAllister, a lawyer with Ahlers and Cooney P.C., the law firm that has assisted the city in those negotiations, presented the amended long-term control plan consent order at the Committee of the Whole meeting July 10.  

While At-Large Council member John Rowland raised concerns regarding the city’s lack of a financial plan in line with the projects, McAllister speculated if the plan was not approved, the city could face litigation from the State Attorney’s Office.  

City Engineer Jason Craft and City Finance Director Jessica Kinser assured the Council that work is being done on the financial plan. The City Council approved sewer rate increases in June to help pay for the control plan. 

However, the city currently has $3.5 million in unpaid sewer bills that it cannot collect. The city also cannot shut off or deny service because of unpaid debts because the water is owned by Iowa American.  

The Council approved the long-term control plan consent order amendment 5-1, with Rowland casting the dissenting vote and Ward 2 Council member Julie Allesee absent.

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