First steps taken to clean up sawdust in sewer

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Austin City Council took an initial step to help LL Parks Trailer Wash while it fixes issues after sawdust from hog trailers made its way into parts of the sanitary sewer system.

The Austin City Council voted unanimously, with members Jeff Austin and David Hagen absent, at a Monday work session to absorb three months of extra costs for unplanned cleaning of the sanitary sewer system’s downstream lift systems. This is aimed at giving Parks Trailer Wash, 1302 16th Ave. NE, a bit of help and time to correct issues.

The city discovered sawdust or wood chips accumulating in the sewer system Dec. 2, 2016, and traced the issue by Dec. 20 to Parks Trailer Wash, a truck wash that primarily services semi trailers that bring hogs to Hormel Foods Corp.

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Parks Trailer Wash will have to pay $5,000 for extra cleanings since the issue was discovered last November; however, the council voted to reduce the fee from $6,450 because extra costs accumulated while city staff were tracing the cause of the issue.

Bill Nicol, who manages the truck wash, told the City Council he and ownership are already taking steps to correct the issue.

“We want to get this corrected as soon as possible,” he said.

The extra materials getting through the system caused the city to clean the lift station about once a month instead of the usual twice per year to address the issue; however, the cleanings are a costly process.

Public Works Director Steven Lang said the cleaning is to ensure debris doesn’t build up around pumps and cause wear and tear, and he said they don’t want the debris to flow downstream and collect somewhere else.

Parks Trailer Wash is already charged about $5,000 a month to treat the facility’s wastewater since it’s greater than a household or traditional business.

However, it wasn’t a slam dunk for the city to incur three months of upcoming extra cleaning costs. Council member Laura Helle questioned if this would be an instance of taxpayers subsidizing one business, but Council member Steve King said the council has helped other businesses before, as long as they show a willingness to correct an issue.

Other council members agreed it was important to help the business, which services about 25 to 30 trucks a day, as it corrects the issue.

After the three months, Parks will have to pay for additional cleanings if the issue is not fixed.