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Milford Sewer Department May Probe Mains for Illegal Connections

The Board of Sewer Commissioners is considering buying a special video camera system that would allow the Sewer Department to search sewer mains for illegal connections dumping stormwater runoff into the town's sewer system. The town is under consent orders from both federal and state environmental agencies to remove "inflow and infiltration" water from the system.

An example of how stormwater affects the sewer system could be seen during the heavy weekend rain in mid-December. Sewer Superintendent John Mainini said the 4.75 inches of rain from that storm swelled the town's sewage treatment plant by an extra nine million gallons – water the plant had to treat before releasing it into the Charles River.

Commissioners discussed the possible purchase at their December 14 meeting and were expected to return to the subject when they met again on January 25. The idea arose last month as commissioners discussed the low numbers of residents volunteering for the Sewer Department's free program to take basement sump pumps that are illegally connected to the sewer system and re-route them to the roadway storm drainage systems.

Chairman Thomas Morelli said one option – which he said would be very expensive to carry out – would be to install meters on houses known to have sump pumps and charge residents for the actual amounts of water they discharge into the sewer system. "That's something I think we have to look at," he said. "They're either going to have to pay the bill or pay to fix the problem."

"It looks like that [installing meters] would be as expensive as fixing the problem itself," board member Rudy Lioce said. "More," replied Jack O'Connell, vice president at Tata & Howard, Inc., the Milford Sewer Department's Marlborough-based engineering consultants.

The wastewater treatment industry as a whole prefers to measure the amount of water usage for a house, O'Connell said. He noted that "most of those sewers in the street are only running half-full" and are thus hard to measure. "We all have to think out of the box now, if they're not volunteering" for the free program, he said.

O'Connell said the Sewer Department could take more direct action. For example, by listening to sewer mains during heavy rainfall, workers could hear the sump pumps activating on and off. That prompted Morelli to ask about the cameras the Sewer Department has rented to inspect its mains for leaks.

Mainini said an inspection of a main with an illegal connection would show that "it's always running." Added O'Connell, "Usually what you see is clear water." Each main would have to be cleaned before it is inspected, he added. "It could be a sump pump or it could be someone draining into it," Morelli said.

Looking at the cost of renting versus buying the camera system, "you're about better off getting your own equipment," Mainini said. "I think this is the way to go, rather than the meters."

Morelli recommended giving the town's voluntary program "a few more months" to see if more residents volunteer.




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