Construction junk clogs Gypsum sewers |

Construction junk clogs Gypsum sewers

Pam Holmes Boyd
Vail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM ” It doesn’t really matter how good a sewer system is. If large chunks of grease, asphalt and pieces of lumber go down the pipe, wastewater is going to back up.

Unfortunately for some residents of Gypsum’s Eagle River Estates neighborhood, that exact scenario played out during the holidays. On Dec. 28, a pump at the town’s treatment plant broke down, backing up wastewater into some basements. Then, on Jan. 3, a second pump stopped and another round of flooding ensued.

Jerry Smith, a resident of Price Lane, had just finished replacing his basement carpet from the Dec. 28 flooding when the second backup happened.

“It flooded twice as bad the second time,” he says. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.”

The second flood trashed not only the carpet, but also the basement tile. Saturated drywall also had to be replaced.

Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll says the problem isn’t with the design of the town’s system. Instead, he says, the problem is some of the stuff that people put in sewer lines. The first flood was caused by a line-clogging mess of grease and fibrous debris.

“Grease and water form up like concrete. We are hoping that this doesn’t happen again,” says Shroll.

When that mess was cleared out, the chunks of larger construction trash came through. Every week treatment plant employees find construction materials in the screens, Shroll says.

“When that stuff gets into the wastewater lines, it just wreaks havoc,” he says.

After the recent flooding, the town found 6-inch pieces of asphalt and a 2-by-4 board in the sewer system’s 12-inch pipes.

How does that stuff get there?

Shroll theorized that it might find its way during new construction.

When the second backup occurred, Shroll says that a manhole cover near the Eagle

River blew, resulting in the discharge of between 1,500 and 3,000 gallons of wastewater into the river. The town reported that issue to the state.

“We feel badly about that happening,” Shroll says, “but mechanical things will sometimes break.”

Solutions include educating businesses, upgrading lines and reimbursing homeowners, Shroll says.

The presence of construction materials in the pipes is a major concern that will be brought forward when building season starts up again in the spring, Shroll says.

As for the grease, Shroll says restaurants in the town will be contacted about the importance of properly using grease traps.

Smith said he has already been contacted by the town’s insurance company about being reimbursed for the damage to his basement. And Smith has some choice words for whoever is responsible for putting asphalt and lumber into sewer lines.

“Really, how stupid can you be to put stuff like that into a sewer system?”

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