Citizens petition for Superior sewer improvementsA small group of citizens is calling for city action after flooding rain left them with thousands of dollars in damages.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
A small group of citizens is calling for city action after flooding rain left them with thousands of dollars in damages.
Their goal, to improve the city sewer system by addressing combined sewers remaining in the city and building a holding pond to help manage storm water.
And they’ve started a petition to encourage the city to make the infrastructure improvements that would separate waste- and storm-water into separate pipes, reducing the risk their basements would become impromptu holding ponds for the city.
It’s an area of the city that still has a combined sewer system and hasn’t had a lot of projects to remove storm water from the system, said Steve Roberts engineering manager for the city’s Environmental Services Division.
It’s been slow going so far, said Dane Jusula, who is spearheading the effort after the rain of June 19-20 left his finished basement half-filled with wastewater, causing estimated damages between $36,000 and $42,500 to a home assessed at $129,000 seven months ago. So far, the small group has collected about 75 signatures, he said.
Jusula lives in the neighborhood near the heating plant for the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which experienced extensive flooding June 19-20, prompting its closure on June 20.
Numerous claims against the city have been filed from residents living in the neighborhood.
“Public Works has been great,” Jusula said of the city department’s efforts to help him understand what happened the night his wife was standing in a bucket over the floor drain and he was using a dumbbell to weight down rags in a toilet in a futile effort to keep the city’s sewer system from spilling wastewater into his home.
About half the city sewer system was separated in the 1970s but the project ended when federal grant money for the project ran out.
Jusula said he learned that like Milwaukee, Superior has one of the oldest sewer systems in the state, a system that allows wastewater and storm water to travels in a single pipe in parts of the city.
“They say they’ll have to raise the rates to fix the system,” Jusula said. “They’re already doing that … and we pay a lot of taxes.”
They’re costs that are too high when local officials don’t make necessary infrastructure improvements to diminish the risk to people’s homes, Jusala said.
A comprehensive survey of the city’s sewer system conducted in 2006 revealed more than half the residents and 60 percent of businesses with basements reported flooding problems.
Jusula said the financial hit is one issue — one likely to take years to recover from — but he would like a promise the city’s sewage system will be fixed to prevent the kind of flooding that took place in the early morning hours of June 20 at his and most of his neighbors’ homes.
After all, after South Superior residents identified issues resulting from about 5 inches of rain falling in two hours in 1999, the city began planning a storm water project in that area of the city.
That and Billings Park south of 21st Street and west of Wyoming Avenue were among the success stories that surfaced with the June 19-20 storm, Roberts said. Storm water projects in both neighborhoods greatly reduced the incidents of reported basement flooding from what could have been expected in the past, he said.
It really is a good democratic process to identify where citizens want to see improvements, said Dan Romans, Environmental Services administrator, said of the petition drive.
The online petition, put up Tuesday night, can be found at http://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-superior-wisconsin-improve-sewer-and-storm-water-management-systems-2.
Anyone who wants to circulate a petition among their neighbors is encouraged to email email@example.com.