Pipestone addressing clay sewer lines on private property

The city of Pipestone has been sending letters to property owners notifying them of leaking or failing clay sewer service lines on their property. City code requires such lines to be replaced and the city has a loan program to help people cover the cost. File image

The city of Pipestone has been sending letters to property owners who have clay sewer service lines on their property notifying them that the clay lines are not compliant with city code and making them aware of a loan program to help replace leaking and failing sanitary sewer lines.

City code that was adopted in 2019 prohibits discharging of storm water, ground water and other water sources considered clear water into the sanitary sewer system by way of defective sewer service lines or any other means. Aging clay lines are considered defective because they can allow inflow and infiltration of groundwater or storm water into the city’s sanitary sewer system.

“That goes to our sewage lagoons,” said City Administrator Jeff Jones during the April 4 Pipestone City Council meeting. “That means we end up treating those waters that don’t need to be treated. It also can tend to overload our lagoon system and in some cases we have to discharge when we don’t wish to, which puts us in a situation we don’t want to be in.”

Mayor Myron Koets said he had received multiple calls about the letters that had been sent to property owners and that one person asked if sewer liners could be used rather than replacing the lines. He said the quote the resident obtained for lining the clay lines was more expensive than any of the loans the city had approved so far for residents to have their clay lines replaced. Jones said three people had been approved for the loan program so far and none of the projects cost more than $5,000.

The program is funded by a $1 million, 0 percent interest loan from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Clean Water Partnership (CWP) Loan Program. The funds are used to make 0 percent interest loans available to property owners for the cost of designing and installing a conforming sanitary sewer service line. The loans must be paid back over three years and can be assessed to property taxes.

Koets asked if the loans could be paid back over a longer period if they were for higher amounts. Jones said the city could amend their policy to allow for that. Councilor Dan Delaney suggested that could be addressed by the council as needed, which Jones said would also work.

Those who receive letters from the city notifying them that they have clay sewer lines are asked to contact City Engineer Travis Winter to set up a time to discuss their sewer service and the loan program within 30 days of receiving the letter. Earlier this year the city implemented a $100 per month surcharge on the utility bills of those who do not take action to replace defective sewer lines on their property.