Messages from the Council Chair

Partnerships to solve complex problems

September 2018

The best way to solve a big regional problem is with sound partnerships. That’s why I’m excited about a new effort to fix crumbling sewer pipes for homeowners in our region.

Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff

Old and deteriorating sanitary sewer lines are a big regional problem. When cracks and breaks allow clean water into the regional wastewater treatment system, the best case is that we end up treating a lot of water that doesn’t need to be treated. But in other cases, heavy flows of rain water leaking into sewer pipes can create a public health hazard by causing sewage backups into homes, overflows into local waterways, or even geyser-like eruptions that pop the tops off manhole covers in the streets.

This problem is from inflow and infiltration, or I/I. Metropolitan Council’s Environmental Services division has been partnering with communities for decades to reduce I/I by repairing and replacing aging public wastewater infrastructure.

Unfortunately, a big part of the problem has been beyond our reach, in the front yards of residents of the Twin Cities region. The pipe that connects a home to the city sewer line in the street is privately owned, making it difficult to repair or replace.

The Council is dedicating $500,000 in grant money to demonstrate effective ways to reduce I/I from homes and businesses. We’ve taken applications from a number of cities who are interested in working with us, and we’ll be picking the best proposal this fall. The city with the best proposal will help us examine cost-effective ways to address I/I on private property, measuring the results at a local level, and sharing the results with other regional communities.

I/I is a big, complex problem because there is no single source of clean water coming into our system. Some fixes are easy, like replacing a missing sewer cap in a homeowner’s front yard or disconnecting sump pumps. Some are more complex, like replacing a broken sewer pipe.

Through partnerships with cities, neighborhoods, and residents, we can identify those problems and employ real solutions. Our regional wastewater treatment system is one of the best in the nation. If we had to replace it today it would cost over $7 billion. Partnerships to reduce I/I help us ensure we protect those investments and our region’s water.

Alene Tchourumoff

More information

Learn more about inflow and infiltration.