Akron residents’ choice: Pay more for sewer or quit flushing wipes

Posted April 4, 2019 at 5:00 am

By Julie Ann Madden

Do you want to pay more a month on your sewer bills or stop flushing those “flushable wipes” that are damaging the city’s wastewater system?

That is the question facing Akron residents and business owners, Akron City Administrator Dan Rolfes told Akron councilors at their March 26 meeting.

The supposedly “flushable” wipes — baby wipes, cleaning wipes, etc. — are getting stuck in the city’s new wastewater lift station, he explained.

Every other day, a city employee is pulling a filtering basket clogged with these wipes out of the lift station.

In fact, every two weeks the employee fills a 30-gallon garbage can with these flushable wipes, said Rolfes. That just catches some of the wipes. The remaining wipes get sucked in tight around the lift station’s pump, and then city officials have to call a service out of Cherokee to unplug the pump.

“It’s about $1,800 per time,” he said, “and it’s every two to three months (we’re having them come).”

“It’s a big financial burden and kind of a pain,” said Rolfes, who visited with an engineer about this problem.

City officials could purchase a grinder for $80,000 to handle the wipes but that’s just the grinder. By the time, city officials wash the lift station, provide a pump bypass system and electrical hookups, it would take about $120,000 from city coffers — before it was even operational, he explained.

This might not take completely care of the problem either, said Rolfes. Plus, any time you add another piece of equipment, then the city would have more annual maintenance costs.

The other option is for Akron utility customers — residents and business owners — to stop flushing these projects.

“Just because it says “flushable,” doesn’t mean it’s biodegradable,” said Rolfes.

City officials are requesting those who use these wipes to not flush them.

If residents and/or business owners do not stop, then one way to pay for the $120,000 grinding system is to add a substantial amount to monthly wastewater utility bills, said Rolfes.

When a councilor suggested it was probably the Akron Care Center, Rolfes responded that theory has already been disproved.

Utility Service Expansion

City officials received a commercial request for water and wastewater utilities.

Lazy H Campground owner Justin Higman asked city officials to provide water and wastewater services to approximately 80 campsite hookups.

The campground is located just west of the Akron Business Park between Iowa Highway 12 and the Big Sioux River. The property is outside Akron’s city limits.

Akron City Administrator Dan Rolfes reported that since this is just a “service” line, whereby Higman directly purchases water and wastewater services from Akron utilities and doesn’t resell them, Higman wouldn’t have to hire their own water/wastewater operator to oversee their “consecutive” system.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommended city officials have an agreement with Higman that states what they are doing and any time they want more services, a new agreement is required, said Rolfes, especially in regards to wastewater.

Currently, our lagoon system is built to handle 370 lbs. of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) per day and currently, it uses 160 lbs. BOD per day.

Higman’s engineer is projecting 40 lbs. BOD per day.

“That would put us at 200,” said Rolfes, explaining Higman’s engineer said he calculated their figure high. “It still gives us room. Judging by our population versus what we are actually using, we are only doing 0.1 per capita so theirs should only be 20.”

“If they add more camper spots, that would be more BOD we’d have to worry about,” said Rolfes.

Higman will have to have a meter pit with a 6-inch combination meter, he said. One meter that will measure high flow and another will measure low flow, he explained. This is similar to what the Akron Care Center has.

Currently, Higman has a private well at the campground, said Rolfes. Therefore, they will have to install some check valves so that if they have a problem, it won’t come back into the city’s system.

Higman will be responsible for boring the lines under Iowa Highway 12 and railroad tracks and all the water and wastewater infrastructure on the campground property.

Rolfes said the city will be responsible for the connection to the city’s water main. This will involve installation of a T to reduce the 10-inch line to a 6-inch line with shutoff valves to prevent back flow into the city’s system.

When Councilor Jenell Lanning asked if the city’s cost would be under $5,000, Rolfes responded, “It should be.”

“We’re just providing them wastewater treatment and water (at a commercial rate),” said Rolfes, requesting the council for authorization to work with City Attorney David Stuart and Higman’s representatives to create an agreement. Councilor Joseph Small made the motion to approve Rolfes’ request to provide Higman with wastewater treatment and water and authority to create the agreement. Councilor Alex Pick seconded it, and the vote was unanimous.

City Hall Roof

During the last wintry rain storm, Akron’s City Hall building developed a leaky roof.

City Administrator Dan Rolfes reported he’d talked to two contractors about fixing the roof.

One company, Nohava Construction of Le Mars, would install a Duro-Last membrane style covering on City Hall’s flat roof, said Rolfes, explaining it’s so flat, the contractor’s crew would have to level the foam that’s there, install a recovery board and install flashing and gutters in addition to the roofing membrane. The cost estimate was $26,606. There would be a 15-year warranty on labor and materials.

City employees would be responsible for unhooking the building’s air conditioning unit so they could better install the roofing materials.

The second company, Walker Brothers of Sioux City, would install a 60 or 80 ml membrane, which would have a 25 to 30 year warranty. This cost estimate was about $49,000.

The council’s consensus was to get this repaired before spring rains hit.

Pick made the motion to hire Nohava Construction and Councilor Kasey Mitchell seconded it. The vote was 5-0 with Councilor Denise Loutsch-Beitelspacher acting as mayor pro tem.

Library Trustee

Appointment

Pick made a motion to appoint Dwain Wilmot, of Akron, to the Akron Library Board of Trustees. He replaces Joel Schroeder, of Akron, who recently resigned.

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