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End of city sewer work in sight

Hutchinson Herald of Menno, South Dakota

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The end to a project that repaired and refurbished the municipal sewer system in Menno is wrapping up with only a few small portions of the project left to complete, said Darrell Mehlhaf, mayor of Menno.

"That covers about 95 percent of the sewer in the city and everything that needed repair," said Mehlhaf.

Crews with Hydro-Klean, who specialize in repairs on underground sewer pipes, completed their work on Friday last week. The company had crews in town over the summer to install special liners inside particular portions of the sewer system pipes. The liners are designed to be injected into damaged pipes. They are then hardened in place, where they seal cracks in the pipes and repair them, preventing the need for complete excavation of and replacement of the pipes.

It was the second straight summer of extensive sewer repairs in Menno. Construction crews were in town last year for the first phase of the sewer project, which saw various streets around town torn up to excavate and replace sections of pipe that were too far damaged to be repaired using the lining method employed by Hyrdo-Klean.

The project extends back several years to when members of the Menno City Council began researching the need to repair or replace a large amount of sanitary sewer line buried around Menno. Inspection of the lines in 2006 revealed that several had been compromised with protruding tree roots and others had cracked, causing the infiltration of ground water into the system.

Water seeping into those lines through those cracks put additional stress on the pumps the city used to move waste through the lines. Those lines were overworked for years as the sewer system, some of which was over 100 years old at the time work on them started, began to reach to limits of its lifespan.

When city leaders decided it was time to move forward with the project, funding for the project was put to a vote of Menno residents. At a special election in August of 2012, voters overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 165-17 up to $2,550,500 in general obligation bonds for sewer repairs. The issue needed 60 percent approval from the voters to move forward, but the voters responded with 90 percent approval.

Mehlhaf said the vote was a clear message from the community that the city should move forward with repairing the vital piece of municipal infrastructure.

"A number of years ago when we had that vote, it passed with more than 90 percent approval. Now we get to reap the benefits," Mehlhaf said.

Work commenced last year with the replacement of the most damaged portions of sewer line, including a large swath of Park Street. The liner portion of the work began this summer and will largely make its scheduled completion date of Oct. 15. Mehlhaf said the work this summer has progressed nicely, with minimal issues arising during the process.

"It's been pretty smooth," Mehlhaf said.

And the city has seen improvements in the system's performance since repairs began, Mehlhaf said. Water infiltration is down considerably, and he expects that trend to continue as the city monitors those numbers going forward.

"We're reaping the benefits of it already. I m sure if we watch our gauges, we'll see a significant drop in infiltration," Mehlhaf said.

Some of the finishing touches will have to wait until after the coming winter. Mehlhaf said some of the streets will not receive asphalt until the spring, though the city plans to maintain those streets as best they can to prevent them from becoming muddy or otherwise problematic during the winter months.

Other streets that need only small amounts of asphalt should be completed this fall, however, Mehlhaf said.

"We'll maintain the grade and try to keep it as convenient as possible until next spring," Mehlhaf said. "There are spot repairs that need some asphalt put in and we'll seal them off."

The original plan called for a third phase of the project, but it was scaled back when it was found that the work required would not be as extensive as first thought. But with the work wrapping up on a project that goes back years, residents should be able to enjoy a far superior sewer system to what they were using not that long ago.

And future generations will, too.

"Everybody's sewer is new and fresh. It's been a long road," Mehlhaf said.

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Original Publication Date: October 8, 2015

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