Rapid snow melt causes high flows in WLSSD collection system

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The warm weather over the weekend and continued high temperatures this week have had snow melting at a rapid pace. High flows of clear water are entering the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s (WLSSD) sanitary sewer collection system in Duluth.

“We’re about 107 million gallons a day. The other thing for people to be aware of is we do have rain events where we will peak. The flow will peak. The difference in a situation like this where you have the snow and the rapid melt of this is a sustained flow. It’s really, really difficult when the flow goes this high and stays this high for the length of time that it has,” says Marianne Bohren, Executive Director of WLSSD.

The increased flow has already been diverting to storage basins in several locations and overflows are a possibility. Clear water is not meant to enter the sanitary sewer system, but can inadvertently seep in through cracks, faulty connections, and improperly connected roof and foundation drains.

“The two areas right now that are the most challenged are Proctor and Pike. We have not had an overflow from the Pike Lake area, but we are tracking effluent. We have a storage basin up there which is filling up and we do have some septic haulers that are helping us move effluent out of that storage basin so we don’t have an overflow,” continues Bohren.

So, what can the community do to help WLSSD to prevent overflows?

 “What we’re trying to avoid is people coming into contact with untreated wastewater. And so what we encourage is if people do see a manhole that’s flowing, that they give us a call so we can send somebody out to investigate and that people avoid if they do see an overflow getting close. We encourage people, make sure your septic or your pumps are pumping into your yard. Or make sure that you don’t have your rough drains and all that going into the sanitary sewer system,” finishes Bohren.