"We really need to look at specific individuals who are causing this problem...."

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/22/14 (Beat Byte) -- Homeowners and renters who have struggled for years with basement sewer backups, overflowing storm drains, and yard flooding have only themselves to blame for Columbia's longstanding sewer problems, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser declared repeatedly at last night's Council meeting. 

"We're fixing this problem with infiltration and inflow that a lot of residents themselves are causing, specifically because their downspouts are going into our water system," Nauser said.   "The community is funding their improvements to solve the problems they're causing." 

Measures to correct so-called "infiltration and inflow" (I&I) -- entry of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system -- include disconnecting downspouts from the sewer, a problem City Hall has been gradually correcting for years. 

But such private I&I sources are only part of the problem.   Cracked and broken pipes; failing private sewers (so-called "private common collector systems"); damaged manholes; cracked box culverts; and unidentified I&I sources also contribute. 

With new technology, public works officials are "finding infrastructure we did not know existed (private common collectors we thought were abandoned, stormwater lines) and different types of pipe (brick, stone, wood, clay, PVC, Orangeburg)," the city reported to the Downtown Leadership Council earlier this year.   "The newest sewer main was built in the 1950’s that serves Flatbranch." 

Last year, City Hall fixed 34,000 feet of sanitary sewer pipe and replaced another 1,156 feet; fixed 405 sewer manholes; and installed 8,200 feet of stormwater pipe, according a 2013 infrastructure report.  

Councilwoman Nauser, however, mentioned none of these system-wide issues. 

"We really need to look at specific individuals who are causing this problem with their inappropriate connections to the sewer system," she urged.   "They should have to fix those problems so we can focus on cracks in pipes and not have to go back to a specific home that's adding to the problem.   We need to get those individual homeowners to take care of the problems they're causing."