City crews look for cause of clogs

COLUMBIA CITY — City wastewater officials have had their hands full lately at a local housing development.At the Friday meeting of Columbia City’s Board of Works and Safety, Water Pollution Control Facility Superintendent Mike Cook reported a recurring problem with a city sewer lift station at Irish Glen.According to Cook, pumps at the lift station are being clogged by an as-yet unidentified obstruction.“We’ve always had an issue out there but this year it’s been unbelievable,” Cook said.“Today (Friday) will be the third time this week we’ve had an issue out there,” he said.Cook and Outside Operations Manager Jeff Walker each had an idea of what the masses retrieved from the pumps could be.According to Cook and Walker, the items could either be baby wipes or dryer sheets.Cook said some of those items are advertised as being flushable, but that some aren’t.He added that the pumps located at the Irish Glen lift station aren’t strong enough to grind up the items arriving in the sewer drains.“We’ve had eight call-outs for service since the first of the year,” Cook said.Cook told the board he was looking at the prices for “grinding” pumps designed to “chew up all that material.”He said the current pumps don’t provide enough horsepower to keep the material from causing clogs.Mayor Jim Fleck speculated the material could be entering the sewer system after being flushed by young parents or residents who don’t realize that the lift station has difficulty handling such material.Another theory offered by Cook is that during low use hours in the daytime, the volume of water required to move that material all the way to the lift station is greatly reduced.He said he speculates this reduction in water flow causes the material to collect in the sewer pipes.“Then they come in all at one time, they have to be coming in one big mass,” he said.Cook said if residents can avoid flushing such items that aren’t advertised as flushable it could alleviate the problem.