Following ELi’s reporting in November on the sewer stench affecting residents in the southern part of the Chesterfield Hills neighborhood, it appears a fix to the problem is on the way — and potentially in the very near future.
City Manager George Lahanas had said in the days following ELi’s original report on Nov. 22 that the City was looking into fixing the problem expeditiously.
“This is something that Council asked for a report on, and action,” Lahanas told City Council at their meeting this Tuesday evening.
Action now appears imminent, as Interim Director of Public Works Nicole McPherson informed City Council on Tuesday that the problem had been identified and a solution was in the works, with construction potentially starting this month.
McPherson said the culprit for the stench was the lack of “traps” in 19 catch basins in the area. The “traps” are essentially a mechanism to keep odors from the sanitary sewer from escaping.
McPherson said on Tuesday that six catch basins had already been retrofitted with these traps, but there are others that need to be replaced with catch basins that have traps — a relatively big job.
Originally, McPherson said, the hope was that lining the reconstructed sanitary sewer interceptor under that part of the neighborhood would be sufficient. That project was completed in 2020, but results were not significant or long lasting, according to residents in the area.
McPherson did not provide a cost estimate for the work, nor did she offer more details about the timeline or who would be doing the work. It’s also not clear from where the funds will come.
“We’re hoping that we can get this started, even, yet this month,” McPherson told Council last night. “And then we’ll be able to move forward with coming back in the spring and doing any other repairs to the road and stuff like that.”
Council approved the contract to “independently” review the Northlawn Avenue construction and the Aug. 12 flooding event.
This idea crystallized when Mayor Ron Bacon (prior to being elected mayor) pushed for a third-party review in October 2021, weeks after the Aug. 12 flooding ravaged a number of homes along Northlawn Avenue and around the Glencairn Neighborhood, among other areas in the City.
Various Council members and residents were pushing for the review in the Northlawn Avenue area specifically because there was sewer construction underway along that road when the flooding occurred. When a contract for such a review came to City Council for discussion on Nov. 17, the five members of City Council seemed OK with the concept.
But Council member George Brookover said then that if the contract came up on the consent agenda at a future meeting, he intended to move it to the Council’s business agenda for further discussion and deliberation. This was in part because Brookover wondered if the City could get the review done for cheaper with local expertise, rather than paying TetraTech, which consulted on the City’s sewer improvements in the 1990s. (Brookover also asked then about whether TetraTech or the City owned data and modeling about the City sewer system, a product of that consulting work. That question has not been answered publicly.)
When the contract approval appeared on the consent agenda on Tuesday evening, though, Brookover did not ask to move it to a business agenda for further discussion. Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg moved to approve the consent agenda, Council member Dana Watson seconded, and then the consent agenda was approved unanimously, which meant it passed without discussion.
The contract itself — worth $15,000 — involves TetraTech evaluating the site, assessing the construction plan, researching the rainfall, comparing “the observed rainfall data to the hydraulic design data used in the design of the sewer construction project,” conducting a total of six interviews with City staff, the “engineer of record” and the construction contractor, plus preparing and reporting on all of the above to City Council, in the end.
Two other companies were contacted by the City about possibly conducting this review. One firm, Rowe Professional Services Company, put in a bid that was for a $15,355 contract. Another firm, Fishbeck, declined to participate “due to the potential for future litigation,” according to a staff memo.