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Under the lake

LSL sewer lines to be located, inspected, cleaned

Eight miles of sanitary sewers are buried beneath the two main lakes in Lake Saint Louis.

Eight miles of sanitary sewers are buried beneath the two main lakes in Lake Saint Louis.

Public Water District No. 2 of St. Charles County, which owns and operates the Lake Saint Louis sewer system, has opted to first clean, locate and inspect aging sewer lines under the two main lakes in Lake Saint Louis rather than spend millions of dollars right now to upgrade and replace them.

The district’s Board of Directors voted unanimously at its Oct. 7 meeting to begin preparing the bidding documents for carrying out those actions.

The board took that action after a presentation by Black and Veatch, the engineering firm that has been reviewing the controversial Lake Saint Louis Sewer Program, an improvement plan that is projected to cost about $33 million. Before implementing the sewer program, the firm recommended completing the cleaning, finding and inspecting of the existing lines under both lakes before any further action is taken. The initial work is expected to cost about $3.3 million.

Rob Fischer, general manager for Public Water District No. 2, couldn’t put a time frame on the work but said much of it may occur next year.

Last year, the district placed the sewer program project on hold and convened an advisory committee that included Lake Saint Louis residents and city Alderman Gary Torlina (Ward 1) to help prepare a proposal for a peer review of the project by an outside engineering firm.

The district hired Black and Veatch for $128,869 to evaluate alternatives and determine the need and cost of inspecting sewers in the city.

The original program called for installing 12 miles of new sewer lines and building 30 new pumping stations around both lakes. Completed in phases over 12 years, the original financing included a $2 per month additional charge for District No. 2 customers, about 100,000 people in much of western St. Charles and Warren counties.

Some Lake Saint Louis residents strongly questioned the district’s plans, particularly the impact of the proposed pumping stations, on area property values. Residents also said they were worried about odors and the noise of the stations.

Correcting problems with the city’s aging sewer system isn’t a new topic.

When the city was being built in the 1960s, eight miles of sanitary sewers were buried under the 75-acre Lake Saint Louise and the 600-acre main community lake. If nothing is done, the mains could leak, break or fail, and they are more expensive to fix than land-based mains, district officials say, noting that there is very limited access to the sewers under the lakes, which range from 8-inch to 24-inch diameter pipes.

The district hired Gonzales Companies LLC to prepare a response plan if the sewers failed and alternatives to reduce risks and upgrade the system. The recommended alternatives became the Lake Saint Louis sewer program.

In a separate peer review report to the district board that looked at Gonzales’s recommendations, Black and Veatch had few quibbles about earlier plans and found no technical or engineering flaws with alternative plans for the sewer system. Six possible alternatives – including using the existing system, rehabilitating the system, adding lift stations and force mains, rerouting gravity sewers, rehabilitating sewers and adding lift stations, and draining the lakes – were reviewed before Black and Veatch made its recommendation.

The presentation noted that key information was still needed and that investigating the existing sewer system will allow repairs to be made ahead of any failure.

The presentation also stated that the existing sewers “are a substantial asset with a potential service life of another 50 years.”

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