Sewage issues that in some instances may have existed for a century will soon have to be corrected, according to officials with the city of Hannibal and Board of Public Works.

Sewage issues that in some instances may have existed for a century will soon have to be corrected, according to officials with the city of Hannibal and Board of Public Works.

A complaint was initially made by a non-resident of the community on Feb. 11. The individual said that someone with the city had advised a local contractor that he could reconnect a sanitary sewer lateral from a residence to a storm water system, rather than the sanitary sewer system. City Manager Jeff LaGarce denies that authorization to perform such a blatantly illegal act came from a city employee.

Approximately three weeks later the city and BPW received letters of inquiry from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources regarding the individual’s sewer complaint. The state required the BPW to verify the sewer connections of residences in an area that includes Hope, Chestnut, Grace and Virginia streets.

According to Mathew Munzlinger of the BPW, its investigation turned up a dozen residences with sanitary sewer laterals that are connected directly into a stormsewer. Two other residences were found to have failing septic systems.

“It’s likely these houses have been connected to stormsewers forever,” said Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, during Tuesday’s work session of the BPW Board. “These are the ones we’ve found, but there could be others. We’re guessing there will be a lot more before we’re done.”

Officials with the BPW and city launched discussions regarding the sewer situation, which according to city code must be remedied by property owners within 90 days of notification.

The notification process will likely begin soon, especially since the DNR is demanding the situation be corrected. During Tuesday’s BPW meeting, LaGarce said he plans to have members of the city’s Public Works Department deliver the news in person, rather than through letters.

The process of connecting homes to the sanitary sewer system will vary in degree of difficulty.

“Some houses are less than 300 feet from the sanitary sewer system,” said Munzlinger.

LaGarce noted some hookups will be “difficult” because it will require crossing streets.

Just as the degree of difficulty will vary in connecting residences to the sanitary sewer system, so will the cost of the work that will be the responsibility of the property owners.

“Some of these are pretty low income neighborhoods,” said Stevenson.

To help defray the costs, the BPW Board has approved a “rebate” program to homeowners or property owners of the affected residences. Because these households have been paying sewer fees for years, assuming their sewage was being properly disposed of, the BPW will refund the sewer fees paid it by these residences during the past five years. Rebates will not be offered to the households with septic systems.

Randy Park, BPW Board president, noted that the rebate program is consistent with BPW policy when it has been determined that customers have been overcharged.

“The rebate should help people be held harmless, or mostly harmless,” said LaGarce.

The rebate program will include some stipulations. The funds will go to the owner of the property, even if a renter has been paying the monthly sewer fee. The total amount being rebated cannot exceed the cost of the connection.

As of Tuesday’s meeting, the estimated cost of the BPW rebates was around $15,000.

BPW and City Attorney James Lemon advised the BPW Board there is nothing that compels it to undertake a rebate program. He added the program will likely reduce the chance of litigation against the BPW and/or city.

“This is the best course of action in a bad situation,” he said. “No one can say you’re being anything but fair.”