New Inflow and Infiltration Website Exemplifies the Power of Online Outreach

A popular new website created by Metropolitan Council Environmental Services is engaging residents to reduce I&I.

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Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, the regional wastewater utility in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area, uses a website (www.metrocouncil.org/iandi) as part of its public outreach to educate residents on the cause and effect of inflow and infiltration and the property owner’s role in mitigation.

I&I has become a critical issue as sewer pipes age and the population grows. Although MCES has had an I&I reduction program in place since 2006, its communities asked for help in educating property owners on the issue. The website was born out of a task force of community leaders that included representatives from public works, local wastewater utilities, finance and city management in the region. 

The task force requested financial and technical help from MCES, which serves 109 communities in the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The region includes 2.6 million residents and more than 800 industrial customers connected to the regional sanitary sewers. Average daily wastewater flow is about 250 mgd. 

Website created

The task force told MCES that residents lacked knowledge about I&I and the responsibility property owners have for their sewer laterals. Acting on the request for help, MCES created the website and rolled it out in July 2018.

The site encourages residents to hire a contractor to check their sewer laterals for leaks and to make sure sump pumps, downspouts and foundation drains are not connected to the sanitary sewer system. It includes three short videos to show how these measures can help alleviate I&I, reduce costs, protect water quality and help with public health.

The site also contains graphics, printable handouts, photos, newsletter articles and case studies on I&I that cities can share with property owners. The material is generic so that each city can add its own logo when sending the information out to its citizens.

“It was a big goal of ours to make sure it was accessible and user-friendly to everyone, no matter what level of knowledge they had on I&I,” says Marcus Bush, principal engineer for the MCES Engineering Programs group. “We created different levels of content on the site from something as basic as ‘What is I&I, and what can I do to help?’ to deeper detail about the issue to empower residents to take action.”

More outreach

MCES uses forms of outreach beyond the website to educate the communities on I&I, according to Anna Bessel, assistant manager for Engineering Programs. These include:

One-page flyers with graphics that break down I&I in simple terms for communities to use and share with residents.

Workshops in which city staff members learn more about how to educate their property owners about I&I.

Outreach to schools to educate students about I&I and give them take-home materials for their parents.

Exhibits at trade shows and career fairs.

Social media and targeted advertising to reach a broader audience with I&I information.

Early success

A case study from the website tells how the city of West St. Paul created a grant program for property owners to help them reduce sewer lateral repair costs. The city also provided inspections at no cost to property owners. The community response was very positive: In one area of 900 homes, about 800 owners received inspections. Forty percent found they needed repairs and took care of them. This has already greatly reduced clearwater entering the system.

An analysis in 2018 showed that peak I&I was reduced by one-third in the largest metershed in the community. The balanced approach to I&I mitigation with a focus on sewer laterals yielded a higher return-on-investment for the community and it’s residents.

Since its launch, the website has been accessed on average more than 200 times per month. “It was always our intent to make the website usable for other localities, as this is not only an issue in the Twin Cities area, but across many communities,” Bush says. “There is a lot of great content out there on I&I. It’s just a matter of sharing it between cities.”

While the website has been live for only a year, it is already being shared and used by other cities across the U.S. and from as far away as New Zealand.



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