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Morris mandated to stop sewer overflow into the Illinois River

Four-year project to cost $5.8 million

As required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Morris City Council approved a plan to change its sanitary sewer system from overflowing into the Illinois River.

The IEPA is requiring all municipalities with sanitary sewer overflow into a waterway to submit a long-term control plan to eliminate any overflow, said Mayor Richard Kopczick at Monday’s regular meeting.

The plan is required, but unfunded by the state, he said. Over four years, the city will spend about $5.8 million in Tax Increment Financing funds and Water and Sewer funds on the project.

The council approved the city’s four-year plan 6 to 1, with Alderman Randy Larson voting no and Alderman Drew Muffler leaving early and unable to vote.

Like most cities, years and years ago all the city’s sewer lines went directly into the river or into Nettle Creek, which flows into the river. As health regulations have required of all communities, the city constructed a sewage treatment plant to treat the sanitary sewer flow before it is released into the river, said Kopczick earlier Monday.

Also through the years, law has required sanitary and storm sewers to be separate.

“But there is still a lot of inflow during big rain events,” Kopczick said. “There is no issue on dry days, it all goes to the plant. But when we have large amounts of precipitation, it overflows the sewer lines and the overflow discharges directly to the creeks and river.”

The IEPA is no longer allowing this. Morris’ plan is to put in alternate, larger sewer lines in a four-year process.

“We’re not abandoning many, just adding new lines with existing to be able to take the flow during peek times,” said Kopczick. “We also will do improvements to the sewage treatment plant along the river (to handle the additional flow). It does not impact the new eastside plant.”

The improvements to the original sewage treatment plant will be part of the first phase of the project, which is expected to cost about $1.8 million. The whole project is in four phases.

“I know this is mandated by the state, but why are we doing this in a four-year term . . . instead of 10 years? Is there a limitation on how long?” asked Larson during the meeting.

Larry Good of Chamlin and Associates, the city’s engineering firm, said there is no limitation, but the Water and Sewer Committee chose this timeline based on the city’s financial capability. The Water and Sewer fund is strong and there are TIF funds available, he said.

“If we want to do 10 years, that would be more affordable to the city,” said Larson.

Alderman Duane Wolfe said the timeline was restricted to four years in consideration of inflation and the project’s cost growing with additional years.

Larson said he was concerned the city may run into other issues that could be costly and push the city’s four-year plan. The mayor said if this were to occur, the city could ask the state for a time extension.

Larson said if the city loses its lawsuit with Community Landfill on top of having to pay for this project, this could create an extreme financial strain. Kopczick said the city could not use TIF or Water and Sewer funds to pay for the lawsuit if it lost.

With the city’s approval Monday, Good will now submit the plan to the state Tuesday morning. He said he expects construction permits from the state by the end of the year and the city can get started on phase one next spring.

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