Shorewood, Sewer Backups, Comprehensive Sewer Plan, Laterals, Foundation Drains, MMSD, Combined Sewers

Just what is the primary culprit in the Sewer Backups in Shorewood and other Communities?

Shorewood held a number of public meetings on the Sewage Backup Problems.  I attended a couple of them, and learned a lot about the history of problems that Shorewood has had with its sewers.  One unique problem that Shorewood has, is that is has some combined sewers that carry both sanitary and storm water.


Although the combined sewers get a lot of the blame, I learned that not all of Shorewood has them, and that despite improvements made over the years, the sewage backups have gotten worse.  And most of the evidence for the increasing problem of sewage backups are the “private” aspects of the sewer system --  the laterals !


(As reported by Marti Mikkelson of WUWM radio Aug 23, 2010)

“ Laterals are the pipes that run under lawns and driveways, carrying sewage from people’s homes to the main sewage line that runs down the street. If the laterals are cracked, rain water that soaks into the ground during storms can make its way into the pipes and overburden the sewerage system


When it can’t take any more during heavy rainfalls, water and sewage start to flow backwards into basements, according to Kevin Shafer, head of the MMSD.

“About 50 percent of this wet weather water, the storm water that we see coming into the system is coming from private property, so when we have a large storm event we start sending water to the tunnel, about half of that water from the separate sewer area is from these private property pipes,” Shafer says.”



Shorewood’s proposed comprehensive plan for eliminating the sewage backups, puts the greater emphasis and expenditures on the public sewers, while putting the private portion (laterals) on the back burner.


I found this to be surprising, as at the last sewer meeting I attended, I asked the village’s expert,  Mustafa Emir, the leading sewer engineer with Bonestroo, if any of the public sewer system fixes would be needed, if all of the laterals were fixed and the foundation water drains were disconnected from the sewer system, and sump pumps were utilized.


He responded that if Shorewood did that, any work on the public sewers would probably not be necessary!!!


Yet in Shorewood’s Plan as shown below (as reported by Adam McCoy in Shorewood Patch Dec 20, 2010)  we see that millions more is going to be spent, that may not be necessary, if the laterals and foundation drains were addressed first.


” The plan, (according to Village Manager Chris Swartz) is separated into four goals:


  • Reconfiguring and replacing sanitary sewers in southwest and northwest portions of the village, and upgrading the combined sewer capacity, which would cost $11.7 million. The hope is this would protect Shorewood homes during a storm producing 1 inch of rain in an hour. The work would be completed by 2015.



  • Replacing private property laterals in all basins and disconnecting foundation drains. Swartz said Shorewood would like to mirror Whitefish Bay and require foundation drains be disconnected when the home is sold. The owner would be responsible for the cost of the work; however, the village would provide a subsidy to property owners. The work would start 2014 on laterals in Basin 1 and wrap up between 2028 and 2033. The cost is estimated at $15.7 million.



·         Separating the storm sewer and sanitary sewer system, which would cost $41 million to complete over approximately 25 years. This work would protect from backups during 4 inches of rainfall in one hour.



  • Resizing of storm sewer pipes and coming up with new drainage systems, including finding a way to have water travel over land, a process called virtual separation. The work would take four years and cost nearly $3 million.”



It should be noted that MMSD is taking the “lateral” problem so seriously, that it is planning on spending $151 million on the problem.  That money will be going to the communities --- so Shorewood could subsidize the lateral and foundation drain problem in part with MMSD money, further lowering the estimated cost of $15.7 million.


Is it too much to ask Shorewood’s Board of Trustees and Village Management to finally get it right? 


This is NOT a new problem --- and we have seen all the fingers of the Trustees and Management pointing backwards to prior Village Administrations, as not attending to the problem --- or in some cases, exacerbating the problem.


That was Then --- This is NOW ---- come on Village Officials --- let’s finally get it right!  If you don’t get it Right this Time --- the Future Officials will be pointing their fingers Back at You!!!



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