Working Across Municipal Lines

Pilot program starts with just eight communities and has now expanded to all 28 in southeastern Wisconsin

Working Across Municipal Lines

In 1999, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District began investigating the cost-effectiveness of different methods of reducing I&I, focusing mainly on lateral and manhole rehabilitation.

When the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District selected eight communities in 1999 to be part of a pilot program for reducing inflow and infiltration, there was no telling where the program would be 20 years later.

“I think the program fits into our philosophy in general with where we’re going, which is proactive,” says Jerome Flogel, a senior project manager for the district. “I think it’s important to note we don’t have a consent decree; we’re not being forced to do this. We’re looking at our performance ourselves and it’s something we always like to improve.”

The district

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District is a regional wastewater utility serving a 420-square-mile area around Milwaukee. The district serves 28 communities and about 1.1 million people, providing water reclamation and flood management services. There are two water reclamation facilities for the region — the Jones Island plant in Milwaukee and another in Oak Creek.

The district has about 300 miles of regional sewer interceptors while the 28 communities it serves include about 3,000 miles of sewer mains, plus another 3,000 miles of laterals from homes and businesses. “Those hook up to the city and village sewers, and then the city and village sewers hook up to our regional sewers deeper in the ground,” Flogel says.

The effluent from the treatment plants discharges into Lake Michigan, which is also the drinking water supply for the 28 communities.

Each of the municipalities has standard structured departments of public works and utilities, so they manage their own collections systems, but all of the wastewater comes to the district for treatment.

Then: Pilot projects

In 1999, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District decided to conduct a demonstration project to investigate the cost-effectiveness of different methods for reducing I&I so they could obtain local effectiveness measures, local costs and information on cost-effectiveness of I&I reduction needed for a 2020 facilities plan that the district was completing.

“We set about $1 million a year for a period of time for some pilot projects on private property work,” Flogel says. “We put that out through a request for proposal to all the municipalities we serve and they could submit their ideas or proposals for participating in that program and kind of compete for that funding.”

Eight project sites were selected for I&I reduction efforts and were chosen to reflect a variety of rehabilitation techniques in different basins throughout the service area. All of the project basins consisted of primarily single-family residential land uses.

“A lot of that work done back then was lateral rehab — cured in place. There was some manhole rehabilitation in there too,” Flogel says. “We did some flood grouting and a few foundation drain disconnects, but a lot of it was lateral rehab.”

Work taking place during this pilot program included lining 25 laterals in Bayside using a Perma-Liner Industries system. Green Bay Pipe & TV did the work, installing liners through new clean-outs that were installed along lot lines.

In Brown Deer, the main focus was on lateral rehabilitation. Field tests were performed to determine whether the laterals leaked near the house foundations, the roadside ditch or both, and to what extent. Rehab consisted of lining 50 laterals. Of those 50, 37 were lined from the sewer main to the property line and 13 were lined from the main to the house foundation.

In Elm Grove, work on public property included rehabilitation of the sanitary sewer and manholes. Sanitary sewer rehabilitation consisted of relaying or lining over 1,500 linear feet of 8- and 12-inch sewer mains, testing and sealing nearly 1,300 joints, and sealing lateral connections. Manhole rehabilitation occurred on 81% of the manholes in the project area.

Now: Combatting I&I

Since that original project in 1999, there have been several follow-up studies and more funding put out for pilot work, but things really took off for the district’s I&I reduction efforts in 2011 when it started a regionwide private-property program providing funding for all 28 municipalities.

That funding is for I&I reduction work on the private property side. The dollar amount provided to each community is based on equalized value.

“It’s the same way we set up our capital budget,” Flogel says. “We set aside about $5 million each year for this program and then it gets distributed using the equalized value formula based on property value in each municipality. So they all get a percentage.”

Work taking place in these municipalities mimics what was done in 1999 with the pilot program: lateral relining or relaying, and manhole rehabilitation. Municipalities have to submit a work plan that follows some guidelines from the district, but from there they have flexibility to prioritize where the work gets done and what they choose to be the most effective work.

“We don’t require cost share, either from the municipality or the homeowner,” Flogel says. “We’ll fund that project 100%, but some municipalities do have some variation of cost share to stretch their money out a little bit.”

Nine years into the program, Flogel believes they’ve gotten to the point where municipalities that have been pretty heavily engaged in the program are seeing the value in coordinating this private property work with the street reconstruction work.

“Municipalities know where the problems are, whether they have constant backups or they have to do bypass pumping when they have wet weather,” Flogel says. “Municipalities are realizing it’s a big benefit to communicate with the homeowners when they’re out there doing the street work, but then there are also benefits to them doing as much work in the public right-of-way while they are out there.”

While it’s hard to see the impact at the treatment plants with wastewater flowing in through 96-inch pipes, Flogel believes that through meter testing and other strategies, they are reaffirming many studies showing that a majority of I&I is coming from private property.

“If you really want to reduce those flows down to a manageable level, you have to tackle the private property side,” he says. “It’s a big education push trying to get out in front of the actual construction work to make the property owners understand this is a neighborhood problem, it’s a regional problem. All these little leaks on their property add up to a big problem if it starts stacking up in the public pipe.”

Future plans

While all 28 are receiving funding, only 26 of the 28 municipalities are participating.

“Some of these municipalities with a few hundred or few thousand people are working on accumulating their funds, so in the span of nine to 10 years, they might have enough for one project because they might only be getting a few thousand each year,” Flogel says.

With the initial 10-year plan nearing its completion, district officials are now looking at what revisions are needed for the policy based on what they’ve learned.

“One of those is funding structure: Do we continue with the same funding that is available for everybody, or do we prioritize that work a little bit?” Flogel says. “We’re working on figuring out those details now that the 10-year plan is coming up.”

Flogel hopes to have the new plan up for approval by the end of the year to allow municipalities to plan ahead after 2020.

“We definitely intend to continue the program.”


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