Written by Michael Crowe, Multimedia Journalist - email
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
It's a problem right beneath your feet.
"Well, like a lot of people, we have a lot of aging infrastructure," said Larry Smith with Waterloo Waste Management.
The sanitary sewer in Waterloo has a serious problem with 'inflow and infiltration.' Too much water is making it into the system either through sump pumps or holes in aging pipes.
Some pipes still in use today were installed in the late 1800s.
Mayor Buck Clark said the sewers are a major issue that can't be avoided anymore. Already, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the city 'on-watch' for sewer issues.
As for cost to fix the hundreds of miles of sewer beneath Waterloo, Clark said the rough estimate is more than $200 million, and city officials still aren't sure how they will pay for it. Clark said they don't want to pass the cost on to taxpayers, but they might have no choice.
But while that issue looms, the waste department is trying a new technology to repair pipes called 'sliplining.' It involves using a robot to put a new liner inside pipes. Sliplining isn't always cheaper, but it does mean they don't have to excavate streets to fix cracked pipes.
Smith said this is critical to manage flow, because in the end, maintaining Waterloo's sewer system is really about protecting the Cedar River from an overflow of human waste.
"You're not just protecting the people of Waterloo," Smith said. "You're protecting everything that's associated with that water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico."
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