Infiltration and inflow problem discussed by Fredonia board

The infiltration and inflow problem the village of Fredonia currently faces is quickly becoming an issue near and dear to Mayor Stephen Keefe’s heart.

After touring Fredonia with the OBSERVER last week, Keefe invited David Rowlinson and Greg McCorkhill of the engineering firm GHD Pty. Ltd. to Tuesday’s village board workshop to discuss, pro bono, Fredonia’s I/I situation and what can be done to address it.

The I/I problem resulted in a water conservation advisory in December that stemmed from the combination of rain and melted snow entering the septic system, causing a backup in the system and unnecessary amounts of water treated on the taxpayer’s tab.

“I/I is water that gets into your system that you really don’t want there, it shouldn’t be there, the regulators (the Department of Environmental Conservation) don’t want it there and, at some point in time, they’ll tell you to get rid of it,” McCorkhill explained.

Infiltration is water that gets through cracks and defects in the piping system, he added, while inflow occurs as a result of rain and/or snow that recedes into low-lying manholes and cleanouts. Inflow stems from downspouts and sump pumps being directed into the septic system instead of the storm sewer drains along streets.

“This all means you’re collecting this water and conveying it to the treatment plant as added cost,” he said. “It costs you plenty of money to treat this water and you don’t want to be treating storm water. That should go to the storm sewers or your ditches.”

Rowlinson, who has worked with the village of Silver Creek and the town of Hanover on I/I, explained options Fredonia has in educating residents and coming up with solutions.

“Infiltration is highly costly and inflow is very cheap to reduce,” he said. “However, (inflow is) a tough nut to crack because you’re dealing with the public.”

Focusing on inflow, Rowlinson explained various options are available to homes and businesses, including cutting downspouts slightly above ground level and disconnecting sump pumps so they discharge onto the ground surface.

“A lot of municipalities have sewer ordinances that make it illegal to be connected to the sanitary sewer, and there is an awful lot of houses that we find that are connected,” he added. “The way to start would be a home inspection, and it would prove an illegal connection that you would then talk to the homeowner about. You may have to go on an annual basis to make sure they haven’t reconnected.”

Roof downspouts can even be positioned in such a way as to deposit water into a rain barrel or a rain garden, thus putting the excess water to good use instead of burdening the sewage system. Splash blocks are also available to keep the water flow tidy.

“The whole issue is to get that downspout cut off,” Rowlinson said, adding workshops on rain barrels can be held by municipalities to inform residents of their possibilities and to give out the barrels, if so desired.

After the presentation, Keefe said the village may look into sending out inspection letters as the first step in tackling inflow.

“That’s going to be the secret to solving this problem is the wording and how to address it and get the message out, and if we can disclose it in every water bill, we’d be reaching everybody,” he said.

An executive session was held regarding personnel at the police department.

The board will hold its next meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Trustees Room of village hall. A workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m.

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