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City begins process of revamping sewer laterals

May 21, 2012

With nearly all the property owners along 65th and Eagle streets in East Tosa signing waivers, the city is prepping to reline private sewer laterals in areas where leaks have been detected.

The Common Council on Tuesday awarded a contract for the $1 million project, which covers relining and testing laterals connected to nearly 125 homes on 65th Street between North Avenue and Clarke Street and on Eagle between 80th Street and Wauwatosa Avenue.

Work could begin in June and continue through the fall with a report of the results coming in early 2013, said Public Works Director Bill Porter.

The project is a pilot program that should help determine the effectiveness of relining private sewer laterals, which account for about 75 percent of the water leaking into the sanitary sewer system and contributing to overflows and basement backups.

This area was chosen for the trial because the amount of water entering the system following heavy rain violates Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District standards. A $500,000 MMSD grant is helping to pay for the tests.

"We're targeting the worst first," Porter said.

Relining laterals in this neighborhood that showed the heaviest leaks during dye testing will be the top priority. The hope is that relining those pipes will stop a significant amount of water entering the system, but it's possible it could move the problem down the line to a neighbor's lateral, Porter said.

Eventually, all the properties in the project area will have their laterals relined to determine overall how much more water can be squeezed from the system.

The first step will be creating sewer cleanouts - which Porter describes as mini-manholes" that allow sewer workers to access the laterals without having to enter a home - on all the participating properties.

He expects to pick up a few more of the holdout property owners as work begins at their neighbors' homes and they realize it's not too intrusive, Porter said.

The property owners aren't being charged for the work because the city wanted to encourage participation in the pilot.

However, other Wauwatosa homeowners shouldn't expect the same service in their neighborhoods - at least not all on the city's dime. There are about 16,000 laterals in Wauwatosa, some that leak profusely, while others experience no leaks. Relining them all would cost millions of dollars, city staff determined.

Porter anticipates the Common Council will come to a policy decision on rehabilitating private laterals throughout the city, including how it will be funded, later this year.

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