Flossmoor Public Works Director says ‘tons’ of sediment pulled from pipes in emergency action
A storm sewer cleaning bill ended up costing the Village of Flossmoor roughly $30,000 more than originally expected, but it also removed literal “tons” of sediment from pipes in the Heather Hill area that could pay dividends with future storms.
The Flossmoor Village Board voted 6-0 on Sept. 8 — during a rescheduled regular meeting following the Labor Day holiday — to ratify $41,294.80 in expenses to M&J Underground for sewer cleaning and televising on Berry Lane, as well as Oakmont, Douglas, Maryland and Sterling avenues.
The work was originally signed off on by Public Works Director John Brunke on an emergency basis. On July 8, he asked M&J to perform storm sewer cleaning and televising in the Heather Hill area to learn more about the condition of Berry Lane and downstream areas to address flooding that has been occurring there, according to village records.
The total cost was expected to be $10,634.80 but included a rate for additional heavy cleaning of the storm sewer if it was found to be necessary during the work, which Brunke called “typical of sewer cleaning contracts.” The work began on July 22, and the scope of the project quickly changed.
“You don’t typically run into heavy cleaning, but this time unfortunately we did,” Brunke told the board, noting sediment weighing tons was found in the pipes. “It was pretty surprising to us.”
M&J continued work on heavy cleaning and debris removal for seven days to the tune of an additional $19,710, Brunke wrote in his report to Village Manager Bridget Wachtel. Heavy cleaning also was completed on Oakmont and Douglas on Aug. 20-21 and 25-26, with heavy sediment also removed from the system in those locations.
Brunke said, while they did not officially weigh the materials, he estimated there must have been 10 tons of sediment removed from those pipes. Some of the smaller, 12-inch pipes were nearly half-filled with debris, he added.
Brunke explained that while the village regularly cleans its streets, heavy storms can wash sediment, typically dirt, from people’s yards into the system. The velocity in the pipes is not always enough to wash everything through them. And Flossmoor does not routinely perform heavy cleanings of the storm sewers — which officials noted could cost $100,000 annually.
“The only time storm sewers really get cleaned is during projects,” Mayor Paul Braun said.
Brunke said these pipes, in particular, have not been televised or cleaned since he has worked for the village. Brunke has been with Flossmoor since 2010.
“It happens over time,” he said of the buildup.
The cleaning is expected to increase capacity in the storm sewers, though it will not completely alleviate flooding around Berry Lane when the village sees larger storms, Brunke said.
“The maintenance improvement will make a big difference in the operation of the storm sewer and flooding in this area,” he explained. “This is going to make a difference in the small storms.”
The televising records from this work also can assist engineers with the flood study being done in the area, Brunke added.
Brunke said he reviewed the work performed by M&J and the company’s rates, and agreed with the costs and scope of work completed. But while a fund balance was available in the storm sewer fund to cover the work, Brunke asked the board for ratification of the expenses to avoid the deferral of planned small storm sewer improvements to stay within the approved budget.
Trustee James Mitros joined the unanimous approval of the work, noting it was worthwhile and could make a significant difference in the area.
“I’m glad we did it,” he said.