The City of Homer is still reeling from damage caused to its sewer system by a January storm. The Homer City Council approved relief funding for three families affected by the storm and is anticipating even higher damage costs to the sewage treatment plant.
The storm occurred the weekend of January 11th through the 13th, when unseasonably warm weather combined with heavy rainfall caused damage to the City of Homer’s sewage treatment plant.
Also affected by the storm were three Homer families, who were displaced from their homes when sewage backed up and caused substantial damage to their property and belongings.
In a memo to the city council, City Manager Walt Wrede explained his decision to provide relief funds to the three families in the amount of $3,500 each. Wrede said the city is not admitting responsibility or liability for the storm damage but under the city’s Emergency Procurement Policy, it is within his power to declare an emergency in such a situation and to provide relief funds.
At its meeting Monday night, the council made that decision official, unanimously approving the payment of $10,500.
But the emergency relief payments might be the least of the city’s costs from the January storm.
"We did experience more damage at the treatment plant than we had anticipated," said City Public Works Director Carey Meyer.
Meyer explained to council members Monday that several key components of the sewage treatment plant – including a compressor and ultraviolet lighting – were damaged as a result of the flooding.
"We really got hurt by that," said Meyer. "There was significant damage ... up to $100,000."
Meyer says $100,000 also happens to be the deductible for the treatment plan on the city’s insurance policy.
He explained that what happened to the sewage treatment plan was similar to what happened to the private homes affected by the flood. He said a wet well adjacent to the plant filled up to a degree that sewage water began to back up into the basement of the plant.
During the three-day flood event, Meyer says the system was handling more than six times the volume of water it would normally see.
"The word that ... comes to mind is 'unprecedented,'" he said.
Wrede told council members that they would soon be faced with making an appropriation for the damage costs.
"Eventually, we're going to have to come to you with an ordinance, asking you to appropriate money," said Wrede. " We wanted to wait until we had a good handle on it."
Meyer says his department is putting plans into place that would prevent a similar incident from happening again, including the possible installation of a manual valve that would cut flow from the wet well into the building.