Serwatka Writes on Storm Water Taskforce

From Lakewood Village President Paul Serwatka:

Storm Water Task Force Update

The Lakewood Stormwater Task Force reconvened on October 30th, 2017 for our first real Task Force discussion after a first preliminary meeting in September.

A parade of port-o-potties march down Broadway Avenue in Lakewood.

Though a few participants were unable to attend, we had a great showing. A thorough, targeted discussion allowed for a better sense of direction as to identifying the overall scope of the flooding problem, causes and contributing factors, and perhaps most importantly, discerning between the causes and responsibilities of the village as a whole and the underlying causes and responsibilities of individual residents as we take the necessary steps toward resolving the flooding issues as best we can.

Task Force participants included:

• Paul Serwatka – President, Village of Lakewood
• Phil Stephan – Trustee, Village of Lakewood
• Carl Davis – Trustee, Village of Lakewood
• Jason Fluhr – Lakewood Consulting Engineer, Baxter & Woodman
• Daniel Bounds – Senior Water Resources Engineer, Baxter & Woodman
• Gary Zickuhr – Lakewood Wastewater Operations Supervisor
• Barry Wickersheim – Lakewood Public Works Supervisor
• Jon Gabric – Gate 6 Resident – 28 year Underground Utility Construction/Installation (including sewer systems, lift stations, etc)

• Peter Olsen – Gate 18 Resident – Degreed in Hydrology/Hydrogeology
• Sam Nuccio – Gate 16 Resident – Wastewater Industry
• Randy Jenkins – Gate 7 Resident – Federal Government Utility Services
• Lisa Sorenson – Gate 13 Resident – Volunteer co-note taker
(*Trustees Carl Davis and Phil Stephan attended different portions of the discussion in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.)

The Purpose of The Task Force

It is important to understand that the purpose of this “Task Force” is to facilitate a “Round Table/Mastermind” Discussion of experts and those with a vested interest in resolving our flooding issue. With a consensus of their thoughts and expert opinions, based on their knowledge and expertise, our village board will take their recommendations under advisement.

Crystal Creek stream bed is to the right of this photo. The rest of the water is in its flood plain. That is flooding both the Lakewood and Crystal Lake side of Broadway.

A number of action Items were identified for the village to move forward with and a number of Action Items were identified that east side residents MUST also proactively pursue in order to even begin to resolve flooding issues, and sewage issues for residents in the Gates area.

I cannot, and will not, argue any of the statements, assumptions made or conclusions drawn. I have no expertise in this subject matter to speak as to any of it, hence the very purpose for this Storm Water Task Force. I may have made some errors in my note taking. If so, I do apologize.

Thank You to All Participants

I sincerely commend and thank all participants for their contribution to the effort thus far.

I would like to particularly thank resident Jon Gabric, whose knowledge and expertise is invaluable. Jon is absolutely an expert and absolutely cares about his neighbors! If Jon calls me tonight and tells me to build an Ark, my neighbors WILL be awakened by the sounds of my power saw at 2:00 am! Big thanks to Jon for his efforts and for leaving his jobsite in Chicago to attend our meeting without dinner.

Getting Down To Business

In the interest of keeping this from becoming altogether too lengthy, I will provide a sort of “notes” as they were taken and emphasize and recap the more salient points of the discussion.

A flooded yard on western Broadway.

That said, if there was one key takeaway that I think is most critical (and likely to be most unpopular) it is that residents themselves will play a critical part in remedying this problem. The consensus among ALL experts, including resident experts from the east side, is that the most significant and most timely improvements will depend largely upon resident participation. Residents must acknowledge their contribution to the problem at hand, as well as their responsibilities. Residents must accept that they will incur some expenses in protecting their homes and their property values.

Roundtable Discussion Guideline

1. Current Sewer System – Adequate?/Inadequate?
2. Scope of the Overall Problem
3. Causes / Contributing factors
4. Is there a “100% Solution”? (Whatever it takes – at all costs)
5. The Reality – What can realistically be expected, given the scope of the problem, the cost to “cure” and the funds that the village and residents can realistically spend?
6. What, of these, are the responsibilities of the village?
7. What, of these, are the responsibilities of the residents?
8. Takeaways / Action Items

The Notes

Current Sewer System –

Size/Diameter of sanitary sewer lines must first be approved by, and are limited by, the IEPA.

The sewer line installed is the largest allowed and approved by the IEPA for our village.

Our current sewer line is a smaller diameter, but is a “forced” system vs “gravity” system, which has a substantially greater capacity.

General Scope of Problem –

The road is not flooded near this home, but there is standing water about to encroach on its garage.

1. Lack of ground water/storm water detention (Largely a village and surrounding area issue)
2. High amount of storm water inflow and infiltration to our sanitary/wastewater system (I&I) (Largely a private/resident caused issue)

Causes / Contributing Factors –

Ground Water/Storm Water Detention –
– Lack of detention area for ground water/storm water run-off
– Lack of Curb, Gutter & Storm water system

I&I (Inflow & Infiltration) –

▪ Village owned Mains have been lined, preventing the inflow/Infiltration of storm water into the sanitary/wastewater system.
▪ Manholes have been checked. They appear to be sound and while they are not lined, the primary concern of infiltration is among the horizontal/lateral running lines.
Resident owned lateral sewer lines are all/almost all old clay tile lines that allow for a high amount of infiltration of storm water into the sanitary/wastewater system
▪ Camera/visual scoping of these lateral sewer lines may show no broken lines, but the infiltration at the clay tile joints still exists and is expected to be a very large contributor to the infiltration problem.
Many resident sump pumps, down spouts, etc. are connected into the sanitary/wastewater sewer system. These are also a very substantial contributor to the I&I (of course, this is well known by residents)
▪ Residents are encouraged to call village hall for a free inspection of your sump pump and downspouts to be sure they are properly connected.

There is no 100% solution –

▪ Off the cuff estimates of $25 Million dollar curb, gutter & storm sewer system would have helped some, but, would not have prevented the severity of our recent flood.
▪ The ground in Lakewood and surrounding areas in general, has an insufficient ground water/storm water detention capacity.
▪ There simply is nowhere for all the collected run-off to go in a timely manner.
▪ The idea of retention ponds in the east side was discussed and consensus was that it is not a feasible idea. The retention ponds would have to be enormous to the point of not being a practical idea.
▪ Example Given – if the entire village were under a dome during all the rains that caused our last flood – flooding would still have occurred at quite severe levels due to the oversaturation of the ground, due to lack of storm water detention in the surrounding areas as well.

What can be expected –

The Village must focus on:

Here’s a Broadway home with its picket fence reflecting in the side yard pond.

1. Improved detention/redirection of ground water/storm water
2. Resident accountability/enforcement of codes pertaining to storm water run-off and sump-pumps & downspouts improperly directed into the sanitary/wastewater system

▪ The village, as a body, has its part to play. There is no doubt. Funding of the village responsibility is going to be a challenge.
▪ We must act prudently and responsibly so as not to spend millions of tax dollars on “the wrong solution” or on un-necessary or redundant efforts.
▪ A comprehensive plan could be developed that can be achieved in “steps” assuring that one project works in conjunction with the previous and future projects, to achieve the desired result. The development of this plan will be quite costly.
▪ The reality is that achievement of this goal ultimately cost tens of millions of dollars (TAX DOLLARS). It will probably take more than a decade to achieve and we will never achieve a 100% solution. But we can achieve significant gains if we create an organized, comprehensive plan.

– It is important that residents remember, however, that the village gets its funds from the residents! It’s our tax dollars that will ultimately be spent on whatever cures we move forward with.

– The most significant and most timely improvements depend largely upon resident participation. Residents must acknowledge their contribution to the problem at hand, as well as their responsibilities. Residents must accept that they will incur some expenses in protecting their homes and their property values.

Resident Responsibilities –

– All residents need to have their lateral sewer line checked and lined

– Residents own their lateral sewer lines. These lines are very old, made of clay tiles that allow excessive amounts of storm water into the sanitary/wastewater system.

– It is estimated that these lines were likely the majority contributing factor of the I&I that overtaxed our system in the recent flood.

– These lateral lines need to be lined or replaced to prevent storm water from getting into the wastewater system – “off the cuff” estimate to line these lateral lines per home = $3500 to $4000 per home.

– Sump pumps and downspouts being improperly directed into the sanitary/wastewater system was also a major contributing factor.

– Be sure your sump pump and down spouts are not directed into the sanitary sewer system. This is against village code.

– Call village hall (or a plumber) to have your home inspected for improper sump pump and downspout connections. The village will conduct this inspection at no charge to residents.

Takeaways / Action Items

▪ Residents –

– Get lateral lines checked and lined

– Inspect your sump pumps and down spouts do NOT direct them into the sanitary/wastewater system

– Consider Installing overhead sewers and/or check valves

– Consider a rider insurance policy on your home to cover flood AND sewer back-up.

– Be accountable and hold others accountable

Village –

▪ Conduct a “Smoke Test” to identify homes that are improperly connected into sanitary/wastewater system. Approximate Cost $22,000.
▪ Discuss the possibility of an Intergovernmental Agreement with Crystal Lake to tie our sanitary system into Crystal Lake’s with an emergency “Flow Meter” that will begin pumping into Crystal Lake System when our system reaches “DANGER” level.
▪ (This can become quite costly. It may also not be feasible for Crystal Lake. In our last flood crisis, when I discussed this with Mayor Shepley, Crystal Lake was currently pumping at capacity and we waited several days before they could safely allow Lakewood to pump into their system.)
▪ Develop a long term Comprehensive Plan with shorter term objectives that can be achieved along the way as funds are generated. (The development of this plan, itself, will likely cost many tens-of-thousands of dollars.)
▪ Consider the creation of an SSA to begin accruing the necessary funds (This will probably require a referendum vote of Lakewood residents and is sure to be a controversial issue that will anger some residents)
▪ Address the unprotected lift station on Broadway. This must be protected from being struck by an automobile
▪ Address the lack of consistent power (generator) for this lift station. This lift station currently loses power during storms WHEN IT IS NEEDED MOST!

The following Village Action Items from above will be addressed at our next village board meeting.

▪ Conducting a Smoke Test to Identify Improperly connected homes
▪ Addressing the unprotected lift station on Broadway
▪ Addressing the lack of consistent power (generator) for this lift station

As always, your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued. I mean that sincerely! I do, however, ask that you please understand that I now receive numerous emails and phone calls, and while I sincerely do want them to keep coming in, it can sometimes be difficult to return them in a timely manner.

For a better Lakewood,


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