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Cannelton residents with faulty sewers to get letters

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Smoke testing reveals problems, many easy to fix

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

CANNELTON – Some Cannelton residents were to get letters from city sewer-department Superintendent Jerry Ball explaining problems discovered during smoke testing of sewer lines.

Mayor Mary Snyder said during a regular meeting of the city’s board of public works and safety Oct. 14 she and Ball had discussed the problem. “With the holidays coming up, maybe we could wait until after the end of the year, and maybe send (letters) out the first of February,” she suggested.

Ball pointed out the city has to have its sewer issues resolved by the end of 2014 under a mandate to separate sanitary from storm sewers.

“I’d do it as soon as we can,” city attorney John Werner advised, “because if you get involved in some kind of litigation enforcement action, you know people can delay that. It’s kind of open-ended. You don’t know how long something like that can take. We’re, to some extent, not in control of that. We have influence over it, but we’re not in control of it.”

Ball said 86 or 87 letters would need to be sent and recipients would have 90 days to correct the problems.

“These are people who are running their storm drains into the sanitary-sewer system?” Werner asked.

Ball replied that problems exist at various points in customers’ sewer lines.

“Some of it could be easy fixes,” board member and City Councilwoman Lynn Fulkerson noted. She suggested the letters be sent and anyone who needs more than 90 days could request an extension. Ball said that suggestion is included in the letters. He also said sending them out would take some time because he’d have to type each one individually, describing specific problems and including photographs.

The attorney suggested he create a cover letter to go with attachments that would contain specific details.

He hadn’t looked at the list, board member and Councilman Melvin McBrayer said, but he suspected some names had appeared on a previous list.

The names of a couple of council members appeared on the list, Werner observed in an aside to Snyder.

“OK, we’ll get started,” the mayor said before the board voted to have Ball send the letters.

The sewer-department chief said Friday he expected to have the letters out today or Tuesday, and corrected the number to 82. He described the process for identifying problems.

“We’ve got a smoke blower; ,” he explained. “We just open a manhole up, set it on there and put a smoke bomb on the side of it and start walking down the street. If we see smoke coming out of a place, we take a picture of it and set a green flag by it.”

Ball declined to name the council members on his list but said one had a broken cleanout cap and the other a broken lateral, the line from a sewer main to a building. Like many of the others named there, they may not have known they had problems, he added.

Smoke escaping a sewer system doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t work properly, the superintendent said.

“These old clay (pipes), a lot of times the joints leak on them and stuff like that,” he said. “Most of the stuff I’m sending out to people is not going to be that hard to fix; most of it’s simple stuff, like a cleanout cap or a handful of concrete to fix it. It’ll cost more to dig them up than it will to fix them.”

He’s required to ensure all of the problems are corrected and to report their completion to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management by the end of 2014. After the 90-day period expires, “we’ll go back and smoke test them again, and if they haven’t got it fixed, we’ll turn it over to our attorney.”

The property owners will then be responsible for all attorney fees and court costs, he added.

“It’s all going to be fixed, one way or the other.”