Behind-the-Services: Storm and Sewer Water Management

Behind-the-Services: Storm and Sewer Water Management

Phil_KiralyBy Village Manager Phil Kiraly

“If you don’t like the weather in Chicago, wait five minutes.” That old adage holds true as we’re all in the midst of experiencing the swings of spring weather and the impact that rain is having on Village infrastructure. Next to snow, rain is the weather event that most concerns Village Managers and public works professionals, especially during this time of year. Given that April is the month for rain showers, I thought I’d share a behind-the-services look into how storm and sanitary water is managed in Glencoe. 

One of our biggest concerns with major storm events is limiting flooding on both public and private property (e.g. pop-up ponds in your backyard or flooding in your basement). To this end, over the last several decades, and in particular, over the past three years, the Village has made significant investments in both the storm and sanitary sewer systems in order to reduce basement back-ups, address storm water quality that spills into Lake Michigan (the source of our drinking water) and has expanded system-wide inspections and maintenance work. You can learn more about the recently completed storm and sewer system improvement projects funded by the 2015 bond referenda in the recently published Budget in Brief. More investment in both systems is needed, with nearly $10 million in storm and sanitary system improvements incorporated into the Village’s 10-Year Community Improvement Program.

But how does the system work? The Village has separate storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems which is known to be a best practice. Many older cities were built with a combined system, but thanks to modern technology and engineering we benefit from less sewage back-ups because of the dual system. In essence, our storm sewer system collects storm water runoff (from streets, yards, roof downspouts and your sump pump discharge), and our sanitary sewer system collects wastewater from your home (from sinks, toilets, showers and washing machines). Combined, both of these systems work together to transition millions of gallons of water to appropriate places—whether that be to Lake Michigan, to the Skokie River Watershed or to water reclamation plants operated by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). Learn more about each system below:

stormStorm Sewer System

Our storm sewers drain to two locations, to the East Diversion Ditch (a tributary of the Skokie River) or to Lake Michigan (see map). These two greater watersheds located in Glencoe are generally divided by Green Bay Road. Localized flooding typically occurs wherever the capacity or condition of the sewer infrastructure is insufficient to handle the amount of storm water generated during extreme weather.

Glencoe has been proactive for decades in addressing stormwater issues throughout our community. Since completing our first Village-wide stormwater analysis in 1987, the Village has invested over $19 million in a number of significant storm sewer improvements. Important to note, over $6 million of that investment took place since 2015. These investments have improved both the capacity and condition of our infrastructure and also used best management practices for improving the quality of our runoff. For example, included in the Terrace Court basin storm sewer and South Avenue ravine outfall improvement projects are storm water treatment systems designed to remove pollutants before discharging the water into Lake Michigan. This is prime example of a win-win for property owners and the environment. 

Sanitary Sewer System

Our network of nearly 40 miles of sanitary sewer collects and carries wastewater from your home and delivers it to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for treatment. Concerns during wet weather months often focus on basement back-ups, typically caused by storm water entering and overwhelming the sanitary sewer system. In 2014, the MWRD developed a program that expanded the requirements for municipalities that use their treatment system. This program requires condition assessments—smoke testing, dyed water flooding (that non-toxic fluorescent green run-off you see in early spring), closed-circuit televising of gravity sewers and manhole inspections—that each community must complete on high priority sanitary sewers. The goal of this program is to identify areas where rainwater can enter sanitary sewers during rain events, impacting the ability for sanitary systems to operate as designed.

We are currently in year three of Glencoe’s sanitary sewer rehabilitation program, and this year we will complete the infrastructure repairs in the Skokie Ridge and the Terrace Court basin areas, which comprises 15% of our overall sanitary sewer system. The MWRD regulations require that the Village preform condition assessments and rehabilitation on an average of 2% of the Village’s system each year. When we begin work on a new basin area, we typically complete condition assessments in the entire basin area to be more cost effective and subsequently follow-up with infrastructure repairs like sewer lining or point repairs.

As we continue to work on these improvements through 2019, we recognize the importance that public communications plays in ensuring a smooth construction season. We are continuing to expand our outreach program to inform residents and businesses of the various construction projects and their potential impacts to you. Please consider signing up for our bi-weekly Village eNews updates and stay tuned to the Village’s social media accounts for more details. 

Here’s hoping for fewer April showers and more May flowers!