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Pump fix could curb city sewer overflows

VERGENNES — A fairly simple fix to one of the two pumps at the Macdonough Drive pump station could help Vergennes solve at least some of the chronic overflow problem that has plagued its municipal sewer system, City Manager Mel Hawley told the city council at its Tuesday meeting.
Hawley said sewer workers have discovered that modern products advertised as flushable don’t always dissolve properly in the system, and those items — he called them “rags” at the meeting — tend to clog the pumps.
Thus, he said, when the system is hit with heavy rains and groundwater infiltration, which Hawley said will remain a problem to be solved, the two pumps in the Macdonough Drive station do not operate at peak efficiency.
Hawley said he and sewer workers do not know how much of the overflow problem is due to clogging, but they plan to find out by installing a new part in one of the pumps, a part that he told council members would be more “rag-friendly.”
That part is a replacement $3,700 volute, a casing that surrounds the propeller-like impeller that pushes wastewater through a pipe under Otter Creek to the treatment plant on the opposite shore.
Hawley said the new volute should be able to handle the problematic products without clogging, and will allow city workers to find out how much pump clogging has contributed to the overflow problem. If the new part is productive, Hawley said a second one will be installed in the other pump.
The city’s sewer fund’s capital improvement line item will be tapped to pay for the new part, or parts, Hawley said. Sewer users, not taxpayers, feed the sewer fund.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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