Sewer lateral lining isn't sexy, but it is necessary. And for residents living in older homes, completing the work now can mean fewer headaches and lower water treatment bills down the road.
Patch tagged along Thursday during a live demonstration of just how a sewer lateral lining works and learned more about why it's so important. Representatives from the public works departments in the Patch communities of Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant, Caledonia, Whitefish Bay and Sussex attended the workshop in Mount Pleasant.
Leaking laterals are a problem across Southeast Wisconsin because clean storm water ends up getting into the pipes that lead to water treatment plants. The more water in the treatment plant, the higher the bill. Laterals are the pipes that lead from a home into the main sewer line under the street.
Mount Pleasant approached village homeowners about the issue in April 2011 during a board meeting that featured televised leaks and residents angry about their rising rates. At the time, Sewer Utility Manager Bob Pucely explained that as the City of Racine treats the village's water, Mount Pleasant gets charged for increased usage.
"That means the village is using more of the sewer service from the city," he said as part of the reason for the rising rates and the need for the lateral repairs.
Inflow and infiltration (I&I) is the technical term for the issue.
Some 1,700 homes were identified as needing attention. Since then, the project has been divided, and the village is addressing a first group of 68 homes on the northeast side.
Pat Wunsch from MBI Pipelining Services and Rick Gage from LMK Technologies went through a pretty technical overview of the materials used and the process itself before we headed out to a home on Shamrock Drive.
The good news is that lateral lining requires very little yard invasion. Workers dig a square hole out near the street, and that's where the majority of the work is conducted. Homeowners need not fear a backhoe tearing up their front yard and then having to pay for expensive backfill.
Cost is a combination of good and bad news since the price tag runs about $6,000, which is still a good chunk of change but is far cry from the $20,000 it could run using the old methods. Mount Pleasant is helping by contributing $2,000 off the price tag, and residents can choose how they want to pay back the assessment by either paying the $4,000 up front or financing it over five or ten years.
Because the entire process is recorded, homeowners can watch the work as it's being done from prepping the pipes by cleaning them of all debris to the liner going in (see the attached video).
Wunsch said that by itself, the lateral lining has a design life of 50 years, but Gage said that when an o-ring sealant is used in strategic spots on the liner, that life increases to 66 years.
"The technology just keeps getting better," Gage said. "Homeowners can feel secure that this process will solve the problem."
In Mount Pleasant Thursday, Pucely said work on Shamrock, Norman, Cynthia, Neumann and Carriage Hills will begin in earnest after the first of the year.
"At three or four houses a day, we expect to do 20 homes in about two weeks," he estimated.