It has been nearly a month since the village of Fredonia issued a water conservation advisory resulting from problems with the village's septic lines backing up from the onslaught of torrential downpours and melting snow, and Mayor Stephen Keefe is determined to make sure that situation never arises again.
Keefe took the OBSERVER on a tour of Fredonia to show where some potential problem areas are located that resulted in the advisory. One potential area was on Eagle Street, where Keefe found an uncapped cleanout line leading directly to the village's septic system.
Uncapped cleanout lines, like the one pictured on the left that was found on Eagle Street in the village of Fredonia, result in unnecessary amounts of rainwater going through the septic system and getting treated, all at a cost to taxpayers.
"Every drop of water that goes through our wastewater treatment plant's septic lines gets treated at a cost," he said after the advisory was lifted. "If we can reduce that water that goes through the system, it saves the village money and it saves the taxpayers and water payers money."
The mayor stressed residents should not position their downspouts in a way that causes water to run into these uncapped lines. Sump pumps also should not direct water into them. If residents know of any cleanout lines along the sides of streets that do not have caps on them, they should inform village officials immediately.
"The first step is to identify the problems and fix the ones that are easy, such as these caps," Keefe said. "That's a quick, cheap, five-dollar remedy right there. We need to be proactive in identifying the fixes ourselves. These caps could've been taken off by lawnmowers, or even by our own village street plows."
Additionally, caps may be put on rooftop vents for the sewer system in a way that still allows for built-up gases to be released.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Chief Operator Betsy Sly informed the OBSERVER the estimated operating and maintenance cost to treat one gallon of wastewater is 5 cents, at the plant's design flow. That 5 cents can add up if tens or even hundreds of thousands of gallons of water flow through the system.
Instead of directing downspouts and sump pumps into the septic system, Keefe said residents should force water to flow onto the sides of streets and into the storm sewer drains.
"That's an open system that allows rainwater to flow into the lake, bypassing the treatment process and saving money," he explained. "We want to process as little water as possible and pump the rain water away."
However, he did admit that many residents are not in close proximity to storm sewer drains.
"Everyone has sewer lines close by, but not everyone has a storm sewer line," he said, adding a long-term fix for the village may be to install additional storm sewer drains.
Keefe suggested residents also install rain barrels to catch excess water in their downspouts. They can then use that water to irrigate their gardens or to supply water to their houses if there is a shortage, he added.
During a recent village board meeting, Keefe informed the board that he would like to bring in an engineering firm to explain additional solutions to fight the infiltration and inflow problems and how to identify the sources. Requests for proposals from engineering firms may also be a possibility.
Smoke bombs dropped into the septic system may be another option for the village going forward. These devices emit smoke from the roofs and gutters of homes that use the septic lines to drain water, thereby exposing houses that misuse the lines.
"By putting the smoke bomb into the septic line, the smoke will rise and we can identify the neighborhoods, approach them and say to them, 'You need to fix this.' After that, we may drop some cameras into the line to find any breaks and go in and fix them," Keefe said.
Looking back on December's water conservation advisory, the mayor said an important factor in preventing the problem from occurring again is communication and education for village residents.
"Let's do the things that are easy and inexpensive and get the community involved with this," he concluded.
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