Fort Madison, Iowa to Repair Sewers for CSO Control

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 has reached a legal agreement with the city of Fort Madison, Iowa, to address the city's combined sewer overflow (CSO) problems, a March 25 press release said.

The administrative agreement sets a schedule for the city to implement its proposed plan to address CSOs under a phased approach. The first phase calls for a pilot treatment system, including disinfection, to be installed at one of its eight combined sewer outfalls by late January 2010. If the pilot system proves successful, the second phase involves installing the same system at the remaining seven outfalls over a period of four years, at a projected cost of $4.5 million.

The agreement calls for the city to monitor results of the pilot system for a year, then submit a report to EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for review. If the pilot project is not successful, the city would then be required to find an alternate method of either mitigating or eliminating its CSOs. The city would have until March 2027 to implement the alternative method. The alternative method could involve the separation of Fort Madison's combined sewers, which carry stormwater and sanitary sewage, at an estimated cost of up to $18 million.

Combined sewer systems often overflow after heavy rains or snows, allowing untreated sewage to flow into creeks, streams and lakes. Combined sewers are remnants of the country's early infrastructure and are typically found in older communities. Combined sewer systems serve more than 700 U.S. communities, including several in Iowa.