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December 12, 2012

New CSO phase to cost $4 million

Work concentrated in city center

Mayor Carolyn Kirk has asked City Council for a $4 million loan authorization to pay for the next phase of the 6-year-old combined sewer overflow project mandated by the state and federal environmental protection agencies.

The new work, separating waste water from storm runoff in jury-rigged, often strange and surprising sections of eccentric drainage systems that brought both kinds of water together under the city center’s streets, is projected to begin in February or March and continue through the summer, said Public Works Director Mike Hale.

The $4 million will pay for remedial work separating the flows so they no longer mix along Mount Vernon, Perkins, Staten, Prospect, Marchant, Warner, Spring and Main streets, as well as Herrick, Spring, and Winchester courts.

The combined sewer overflow, or CSO, project, required by a modified consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection, began in 2006 and has already cost roughly $25 million to $30 million, Hale estimates.

The U.S. Clean Water Act mandates that no wastewater flow into the harbor, ocean and estuaries.

The next phase will eliminate the numerous old drainage setups at homes and businesses that merge wastewater and runoff in pipes under the streets, sending a dirty mix down to the harbor when the volume is larger than the capacity of the system that runs to the sewage treatment plant. Hence, the use of the word “overflow” in the descriptive term “combined sewer overflow.”

Since the project got underway in 2006 with a $27 million loan authorization, the concept of the project has evolved in the Kirk administration and Hale’s office.

Hale said he has come to see the project as essentially an endless series of small appropriations to underwrite continuing appraisal and preventative maintenance of what soon will be a largely modernized system of storm runoff isolated from the flow of wastewater, as the Clean Water Act requires.

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