Cork and Sharon DeWispelare heard a rumble outside their house Sunday morning. Looking outside, they saw the the towering maple tree by their driveway had flattened Cork’s 2005 Chevy Silverado.
Cork was preparing to go to church at St. Mary’s when the tree fell at around 9:40 a.m. Within a half hour, Chris Kroesing of the City Street Department was on the scene with a chainsaw and a loader to clear the wreckage.
About the time the tree fell, area weather stations clocked gusts higher than 30 mph out of the north, and coupled with the leaves soaked by rain, the wind must have been too much for the old tree, which was hollow.
The DeWispelares were preparing to cut down another maple next to the one that fell.
“This one decided to go first,” Sharon said.
Judging by the age of the house, which Cork’s parents built in the early 1960s, the tree was at least 60 years old. The tree was planted before the house was built.
“We were lucky it went the direction it went and not on the house,” she said.
The Banner-Press contacted Extension Educator Michael Rethwisch, who provided some information about the maple. The trees are attractive and fast growers to create good shade within a relatively short period of time.
However, maples are not recommended for close proximity to houses. According to information from the University of Massachusetts, trees can be examined by arborists to determine if they are a danger of falling because they are hollow and their strength is compromised.
For years now, the City Council has known that the city’s wastewater treatment plant southwest of town is going to need some major fixes to bring its operation up to where it needs to be. Now the city is facing a deadline to get into compliance with state and federal regulations.
Coinciding with the concern about the quality of wastewater treatment, the city has had some turnover in the wastewater department, and for the second time in three years the Council has decided against contracting with a private firm to operate the wastewater department.
The next few months will be critical for getting the wastewater department’s operations back on track. At the April 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, the city council heard options and estimated costs from Olsson Associates representative Craig Reinsch.
The details get complex, but put in simple terms, the wastewater treatment plant has two main challenges: In addition to the solid waste from the city’s homes, apartments, schools and businesses - 1,061 connections in all, the system also takes in flows of water and biological solids – the leftovers of egg processing at Henningsen Foods.
The other major challenge is the infiltration of ground water and storm runoff into the sanitary sewer system, especially in the north half of town where the underground water table is high. Testing confirmed the high infiltration issues last year.
Both challenges are going to require some expensive work, and in the case of fixes at the wastewater treatment plant, it is work that was proposed six years ago but put on hold.
In the meantime, the city ran into trouble with the Department of Environmental Quality last fall, when DEQ found ammonia levels to be too high in the treated water discharged from the city’s wastewater treatment plant into Keyser Creek.
A report by Craig Reinsch of Olsson Associates was a review of proposed improvements that were considered, but not implemented, in 2011. At the time, Mayor Alan Zavodny said that the city didn’t have the financial resources to take on the project while the Northwest Drainage Project was getting under way and the Downtown Renovation, were on the city’s planning horizon. Henningsen officials were not present at the meeting, and the company has not responded to requests for comment on the wastewater issues.
The report spelled out how the majority of the wastewater treatment plant’s Biological Oxygen Demand, the oxygen required by aerobic organisms for metabolism, is loaded by Henningsen’s effluent to the facility.
Henningsen’s load accounts for an average of 2,718 pounds of BOD per month, and a maximum number of 4,581 pounds. In contrast, David City’s average waste influent to the plant is 537 pounds.
That puts the Henningsen plant’s loading allocation at 85 percent of the average and 89 percent of the maximum monthly loading allocation.
Olsson had proposed, first in 2011, to build an anaerobic and equalization lagoon to hold the overload coming into the plant. The cost of the new lagoon—$2,374,000 would be split by Henningsen and the city. Henningsen would pay 89 percent, or $2,124,730, while the city would pitch in $249,270.
Reinsch’s report noted that Henningsen would benefit by not having to re-plumb their facility piping and find space within their facility for flow equalization and pre-treatment. The company also would “drastically reduce” instances of charges, required by the city, for organic and nutrient overloading.
Another plan to help fix the city’s treatment problems is to remove sludge left in the city’s lagoons. The cost of the removal, $572,000 would be split, with Henningsen paying 59.2 percent and the city, 40.8 percent.]
Finally, Reinsch reported on a third issue with wastewater treatment: The infiltration of groundwater and storm runoff into the sanitary sewer system.
The cost for repairing the sewer lines is estimated a $1,283,500. The city would pay for 91.1 percent of the costs while Henningsen would pay 8.9 percent.
When the costs for the three remedies are totaled, Henningsen would pay $2,577,586 or 60.9 percent, while the city would pay $1,651,914 or 39.1 percent.
Reinsch reported that the debt for the 1997 wastewater treatment project will be paid off at the end of December 2018. The city has been paying just over $94,000 per year on the plant, while Henningsen has paid $110,554 per year. With those amounts used to offset future debt payments, the city could reduce the impact on city rate payers.
“It appears that the rate payer impact could be $3 (per month) or less,” the report stated.
Even though the proposed equalization lagoon was not built as proposed in 2011, the report stated that the City Council raised sewer rates in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The current sewer rate is $8.15 plus $3 for every 1,000 of gallons used.
Based on the monthly use of 6,732 gallons, the average cost for sewer users in the city is $21. When the $8.15 monthly rate is added, the bill would be $29.15.
That monthly bill was higher than Lincoln, $21.23, Beatrice $25, and York, $25.89, but lower than Bennet, Nebraska City, Seward, Hickman and Waverly.
Reinsch said that the city is “well on its way to meeting the October 2017 deadline set in place by DEQ for previous ammonia violations.
If the City Council and Henningsen can come to an agreement in the next month, the city would present a plan to NDEQ in October.
Then the process of finalizing the project and finding a contractor would take place, with construction tentatively set for April 2018 and completion by May of 2019.