MOUND, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Health has begun testing bacteria levels in Lake Minnetonka and two surrounding lakes after heavy weekend rain prompted the city of Mound to release unfiltered sewage into the storm water sewer system Sunday.
Water sampling will continue for the next two weeks until the water is deemed safe. The MPCA gave the city permission to release the sewage in order to keep wastewater from backing up into the basements of about 1,000 homes.
"This is a method that is used when people's homes, health and safety are at risk," said Kandis Hanson, Mound City Manager. "The environment is important too, but we ask that people put it in perspective and see that people can't live in their homes once they have been deluged with sewage."
Hanson stressed the city of Mound wasn't alone in this move. She said after examining MPCA records, weekend rains forced at least 20 cities across the state to discharge into a nearby body of water to prevent sewer backup in homes within their community.
Still, on Dutch Lake's Grandview Boulevard, homeowner Joe Bohmert woke to what he described as a "sewage waterfall" in his basement. Bohmert and his wife recently finished renovating their dream retirement cabin only to deal with this disaster.
"Sewer water, a homeowner's worst nightmare,"said Bohmert."It's a punch in the gut because we have to backtrack and put in money and time."
Bohmert said to make matters worse, crews were working on the problem Saturday night at the Grandview lift station before his home flooded. Bohmert said crews told him their truck failed but didn't warn him of any trouble.
"The discouraging part is it could have been prevented if we would have been given heads up, not being notified by the city and no Plan B on their part," said Bohmert.
Hanson said the city of Mound's sewer vacuum truck was being used to address the rising levels at the Grandview lift station all day Saturday.
"After hours, the effort fell behind the rapidly rising level at the Grandview lift station -- a losing battle. When the vac truck failed and it was determined that service was not to be available until (Monday), then an alternative plan was forced to be devised," said Hanson, in a press release.
Hanson emphasized the efforts to release unfiltered sewage into area lakes saved more homes from damage. She added that the sewage was not raw, with solids separated and filtered out.
The city of Mound said sewage was released at the following locations near Lake Minnetonka: the lagoon at Emerald Road and Channel Lane, Beachside outfall at Shorewood, the Avalon Park outfall at Bartlett Boulevard; and Lynwood at Morton Channel, on Lake Langdon at Cottonwood and Lynwood, and on Dutch Lake atthe Grandview boat launch.
Joe Marston, another flooded homeowner next door to Bohmert, said the city of Mound still owes residents an explanation.
"To my knowledge, none of the city residents themselves were ever contacted by anyone from the city. What are the priorities of the city? With public perception or with its actual residents?" said Marston.
People are advised not to swim or do other activities, such as water skiing, that would increase the chances of swallowing lake water, which could contain E. coli bacteria.