By STEVEN WILLIAMS
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Hannibal city officials recently discovered a sewage issue that may have been in place for years.
Matt Munzlinger, Hannibal Board of Public Works utility and construction engineer, said the city discovered a dozen homes whose sewage is connected to the city's storm sewers. Most of the issues were discovered on Virginia, Hope and Chestnut streets. He said the city has no way of knowing how long the sewers have been connected to storm drains, adding it "could be 100 years."
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources received a complaint on Feb. 7, then sent a letter to the city on Feb. 19 about the problem.
Munzlinger said he has no idea how home sewage systems could have been tied into the storm sewers, but he said the combining of the two once was an accepted practice. Currently, the ones discovered to be tied into city storm sewers are in violation of the city's storm water permit, Munzlinger said.
Sewage in the city's storm drains is a risk to people who are near it.
"If you have sewage going into a storm sewer, you have drainage going somewhere," Munzlinger said. "There's a risk to the public getting some kind of bacterial issue. It's just a general hazard. If you come in contact, you may get sick from it."
The city is preparing a five-year rebate program to help residents with the cost of the repairs. If an owner repairs the connection and brings the bill to the BPW, the city will refund the amount it had charged for five years. That could cost the city about $15,000, but it could cost some of the residents more.
He said the cost of repairs will depend on how difficult it is for crews to get to the home sewage systems. Distance to the sewer main, depth to the main and whether crews need to cross sidewalks, driveways or streets could affect the price.
"We understand that it's a burden on these property owners," Munzlinger said. "Whether it was them before or not, that property needs to be connected to the sanitary sewer."
Munzlinger said there is no timetable to continue a search for other sewer mains that also may be connected to city's storm sewer. He said the city is working with other city departments to finalize the process.
"I would anticipate that property owners will start being notified within the next few weeks," he said.
Property owners will have 90 days to reconnect the sewer main to the city's sanitary sewage.
Amy Tompkins, who lives on Hope Street, said she understands it's a difficult situation for both the city and the residents who will be affected. She moved to her home in 2000 and is worried about the creek behind her home. She's concerned about the creek flooding if any sewage was being dumped into it.
She said she hopes her house isn't affected.
"I'm not looking forward to having a big bill at all," Tompkins said.