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Cedar Rapids pilot study will examine sanitary sewer issues

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The City of Cedar Rapids is working on a sanitary sewer issue that’s caused problems for years.

People in parts of the city are struggling with basement sewer backups when there’s heavy rain. Sewage can come up through the floor drains causing a lot of damage. In fact, city data show that happened 122 times when heavy rain fell at the end of June.

The sanitary sewers become overwhelmed when stormwater and ground water enters the system where it’s not supposed to. Sometimes that’s through cracks in pipes or through direct connections, like sump pumps.

Donald Klingenberger has become all too familiar with sewer backups. The $8,000 worth of damage from June’s storm still is very visible in his basement.

“We have had sewage backup for the second time since 2009, and some of my neighbors have had it five times since 1993,” Klingenberger said.

The Southeast side resident is frustrated and calling on the city to do something.

City engineers acknowledge that sanitary sewer problems have plagued the city for years.

“We recognized that this is something we’ve needed to do for several years. We would have liked to have started this a few years ago,” said Sewer Utility Engineering Manager Dave Wallace.

But now they are taking a closer look at what’s happening.

“For the most part, we do a pretty good job at controlling those flows. It stays within the system. Just during extreme wet weather events where it becomes a problem for us, where we can’t manage it within the pipes. That’s the part we want to focus on is how do we keep control of that in our pipes.” Wallace said.

The city is conducting a pilot study in the Kenwood Park Neighborhood, which engineers call a problem area. They’re taking video of sewer lines, going into homes to check sump pumps and conducting smoke tests.

“The report will be completed this fall and with that we hope to have good information for city council to make some policy decisions on the next steps,” Wallace said.

Klingenberger just hopes this is the beginning of the end of his issues.

“It’s a multipronged problem that needs to be attacked, really,” Klingenberger said.

The city said the pilot study costs about $280,000, and everyone who pays a city sewer bill is helping to pay for the study.

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