When Pittsburg was built in the late 1800s, the city was built with the storm and sanitary sewer system all linked together as one system.

When Pittsburg was built in the late 1800s, the city was built with the storm and sanitary sewer system all linked together as one system.
Slowly, but surely since then, John Van Gorden, assistant city manager, said city workers have worked to separate the two. Unfortunately, he said, it can sometimes be difficult to tell where the problem spots are until the sanitary sewer floods above ground.
“We’re trying to alleviate those problems,” Van Gorden said. “For the 41 years I’ve been here, it’s something the city has worked on when they’ve found those kinds of areas. We’ve always tried to correct them, and we’re still correcting them today.”
It’s something Van Gorden called “a never-ending problem,” and something that Pittsburg City Commissioner Bill Rushton knows all too well. Rushton cited the recent rains as something that moved the manholes off the area between First and Second streets on Warren, near Rushton’s house, flooding the ditch with sewage.
“It just blows the manhole covers off,” Rushton said. “You get raw feces, Tampax and condoms all over the place. The storm ditch just fills up with the feces, and you have to deal with that stench for months. Beyond that, it makes for a great breeding ground for mosquitos.”
Van Gorden said that area could be a problem with two to three inches of rain, but insisted the city was working to find a solution. He said city staff met Tuesday to try and find alternatives for some of the areas, including offloading some of the lines to other sections that aren’t backing up. He said the city would try to work quickly — the problem area is just south of the new Fire Station No. 1.
“We think that we may have a solution,” Van Gorden said. “We have to take care of some things. We’re trying to do some things with some lines that will correct some of those areas that are surcharging.”
But the problems don’t necessarily have a lined-up monetary solution — Van Gorden said the storm water utility was designed to use on storm sewers, not sanitary ones. Right now, that money is funding the $1.6 million Seventh and Joplin storm sewer project.
“This is honestly going to be an on-going thing forever to continue working on those lines,” Van Gorden said. “We’ve still got sources where the storm sewer is getting into the sanitary sewer and causing problems.
“We’ve found several problems that we’ve detected in the process of repairing the lines,” Van Gorden said. “But even if we got every problem fixed right now, we’re going to have to continue to work to keep the problems down. We’re trying to get it down to a roar, but we’ve been working on that for years. We’re going to continue working on it.”
Rushton said he knew it was a big problem through the city.
“It’s honestly this way all over town,” Rushton said. “We have broken lines and infiltration and it just overloads. We’re trying to run a 1910 sewer line with 2008 water, and it’s not making it.
“Up until the last few years, there wasn’t really a dime, or any significant money spent,” Rushton said. “Now we’re trying to fix it, we’re spending millions of dollars, and we’ve still got it. It’s just enormous.”

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134