Council overhauls inflow program
By Baird Helgeson
Duluth News Tribune
Duluth has a new sump pump program that includes mandatory
home inspections and fines for property owners who don't
fix overflow problems.
Duluth city councilors on Monday night unanimously approved
changes aimed at reducing sewer overflows that flood streets,
streams and flow into Lake Superior. City leaders expect
to begin enforcing the changes by mid-December.
The new program limits grants to install new sump pumps
to $1,250 per home. The sump pump grant money had been
unlimited, averaging about $2,000 per home. Under the
changes, low-income home owners can get other grants to
offset the cost of installing sump pumps.
Home and rental unit sellers must disclose if their property
doesn't comply with discharge guidelines, and outline
how to bring the property into compliance. The city will
have the authority to inspect homes and can fine errant
property owners $50 a month until their home or rental
unit is no longer a problem.
The city will use money saved by the sump pump grant
restrictions to inspect sewer lines and help pay for an
800,000-gallon storage basin in the Lakeside-Lester Park
area, which has daunting wastewater problems.
Construction on the new basin could begin next year,
said Dick Larson, director of public works and utilities.
The city has applied for $4.9 million in state bonding
money to help pay for the storage basin, expected to cost
more than$8 million.
Consultants are exploring different sites and designs
for the new storage basin, which will store sewer system
overflow and divert it to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary
District for treatment, Larson said.
Public works officials will do mandatory inspections
in the neighborhoods that have had the most wastewater
trouble, such as Lakeside and Lester Park.
The city has spent more than $6 million on the problem
since 1995, mostly with increased sewer rates. More than
4,000 homes have been inspected, with 2,600 needing sump
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is requiring Duluth
to take care of the overflow problem or the city won't
be allowed to issue new building permits.
"We support this direction," said Kurt Soderberg,
WLSSD's executive director.
In other business, councilors denied the transfer of
a liquor license from the Duluth Airport Authority to
Pedro & Kerv Inc., which wants to operate the After
Burner Lounge at the Duluth airport. Union leaders opposed
the transfer, saying the new company isn't being fair
to employees who have worked for the airport authority
for more than 16 years. About five After Burner employees
were laid off last Friday and told their last day would
be Saturday, when the new company was expected to take
over. Union members planned to picket the restaurant Saturday
if the council approved the transfer. Airport officials
weren't at the council meeting.