Portions of the City of Cloquet’s wastewater collection system date back to 1900 and today it contains approximately 260,000 linear feet of pipe, 1,100 manholes, 9 wastewater pump stations, and 3,500 customers. Collected wastewater is conveyed to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) treatment plant in Duluth where it is treated and discharged into Lake Superior. Sewer rates are set by the City Council and reflect the costs of operating and maintaining the collection system, as well as the charges imposed by the WLSSD for treatment.
The utilities division of Public Works is responsible for the maintenance of the sewer collection system, which includes the routine inspection of all pump stations and the maintenance of all City sewer mains. Property owners are responsible for their own sewer service pipe, which runs from the house or building to the City main in the street.
If the sewer backs up in a home or business, oftentimes, an experienced person can predict where the problem is. If water backs up in the basement only when you flush a toilet, operate the clothes washer or run water in the building, chances are the problem is in the owner’s plumbing between the building and the City main in the street.
If the sewer is backing up in the basement when no water is being used, the problem is more likely to be in the City’s sewer main in the street. In this case, the owner, must react quickly and contact the City immediately. Failure to report a possible problem with a city sewer main could result in significant damage. If a person is unsure as to the source or cause of a sewer backup problem, you are well advised to call the City first.
To report a sewer backup problem and request emergency assistance, a person should call the Cloquet Public Works Department at (218) 879-6758 during normal working hours or our 24-hour emergency dispatcher at (218) 624-0391. Once a maintenance person is dispatched and has an opportunity to check out the problem, they will come to your home or business and let you know what they found. If the problem is in the City sewer main, they will take action to open the main and correct it as soon as possible. If they determine the problem is between your building and the City main, you will be advised that the maintenance of this section of sewer line is your responsibility. You will then be faced with either correcting the problem yourself or contacting a private contractor or plumber to do it for you. For more information regarding sewer backups and damage claims, click the following link:
Emergency Assistance with Sewer Backups
- Cloquet Public Works Department (Normal Working Hours) at (218) 879-6758
- Public Works 24-Hour Emergency Dispatcher at (218) 624-0391
Sewer Overflows - Inflow and Infiltration
Each spring and with practically every major rainfall, we have become accustom to hearing of problems that occur with the region’s sanitary sewer systems. Although much of the controversy has been focused on the City of Duluth, over the past several years, the City of Cloquet has been working closely with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) to upgrade its sanitary sewer collection and treatment system. The major focus of these improvements has been to reduce and eliminate Inflow and Infiltration (I&I).
Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) are sources of clear water, either rain or ground water that enter the sanitary sewer system. The major effect of inflow and infiltration is a significant increase in wastewater flows during the spring snowmelt and shortly after rain storms in the summer. This increase has lead to basement flooding, overflows of the sewer system and the discharge of untreated sewage into the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.
Although the City of Cloquet does not experience routine overflows of its sanitary sewer system, I&I is still an issue with Cloquet and every city that sends its wastewater to the WLSSD for treatment in Duluth. We all contribute to the problem and as a result, each community has been required to annually develop an I&I Reduction Program and to report on the status of its efforts.
In addition to the environmental concerns associated with sewer overflows, I&I results in additional treatment and pumping costs for all customers. It also reduces the available capacity of the sewer system to convey and treat wastewater properly. This is a state-wide problem that is getting more attention from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency through increased rules and regulations. The Agency is now refusing to issue sewer extension permits to cities that are not actively reducing I&I and enforcing the regulations. Obviously, such a situation can have a negative impact on our community as we try to grow and diversify our local economy.
Over the past twenty years, much of Cloquet’s efforts have been directed towards rebuilding and upgrading older portions of its collection system. Since 1985 the City has reconstructed approximately 46,400 feet of old sewer lines and leaky manholes at a cost of $1.8 million.
There is still more work to be done to the City’s system and as part of Cloquet’s I&I Reduction Program every building in town will have to be inspected in an effort to identify and eliminate other clear water sources. These inspections will include things such as roof drains, down spouts, footing drain tile and sump pump systems, which are improperly connected to the sanitary sewer system.
For more information regarding the City of Cloquet’s I&I Reduction Program, click the following link:
- 2011 Inflow & Infiltration Annual Report
Part of the City’s Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) Reduction Program involves an inspection of every building in Cloquet to identify and eliminate sources of I&I. These may include things such as roof drains, down spouts, footing drain tile or sump pumps, which are improperly connected to the sanitary sewer system. These types of connections are a violation of both state law and city ordinance.
Improperly installed footing drain tile and sump pumps are a major target of the City’s inspection program. Building drain tile installed around the outside perimeter of a building’s foundation must be piped to a sump pit inside the basement. A sump pump is then installed in the pit to pump collected groundwater to the outside and away from the building. In some cases, these pits have been tied directly to the building’s sanitary sewer line and flow into the city system. In other cases, property owners have installed sump pumps, only to discharge their water into a laundry tub or floor drain. All sump pumps from building drain tile must be piped directly to the outside of the building. They cannot be run to floor drains, laundry tubs or to any sanitary sewer connection.
Improperly installed sump pumps, or drain tile systems will also have a direct impact on individual owners. If a non-compliant system is identified and it is determined that it is contributing to I&I, by City ordinance the owner could be charged an additional sewer fee that ranges between $15 and $50 per month. Cloquet has yet to begin charging such fees, but recent updates to the City’s utility ordinance includes such a fee in the event owners ignore or fail to correct non-compliant systems.
Illegal or improperly installed roof drains, drain tile and sump pump systems are, in most cases, a matter of people just not knowing the regulations. Years ago there were no regulations that prohibited them. In any event, these must be disconnected from the sanitary sewer as soon as possible. City staff are available to provide technical assistance in correcting your situation. To set up an appointment please contact the City Engineer’s office by calling 879-6758. For more information regarding the proper installation of sump pumps, click the following links:
- Inflow & Infiltration – When Clean Water Causes a Problem
- Solving Sewer Overflows – A Simple Guide for Homeowner’s
- Money Down The Drain
The City of Cloquet is a member of the Regional Stormwater Protection Team, a great resource for more information about keeping area creeks, rivers and Lake Superior clean.