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Flossmoor to build new sewage system lift station equipped with ‘chopper’ pump

Swiffer mop pads – a common culprit clogging today’s wastewater disposal systems – may be meeting their match in Flossmoor.

Village board members unanimously voted Tuesday to construct a new $350,000 sewage system lift station that includes a “chopper pump” capable of shredding just about anything that, rightly or wrongly, is flushed down a toilet.

The new pumps can chop up rags and rope, said Public Works Director John Brunke. But they are especially needed in the battle against Swiffer pads.

“They are our biggest problem,” Brunke said. “People put the mop heads in their toilets and they clog the system.”

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However, Swiffer mop pads are not the only problem at the current Woods Lift Station, located on the east end of Flossmoor Country Club at Butterfield Creek. The facility, built more than 50 years ago, is responsible for pumping wastewater, including sewage, from the Flossmoor Park and Southeast Flossmoor neighborhoods west to a tributary lift station on Butterfield Road.

Brunke said the Woods facility is “experiencing severe deterioration” to the existing subgrade steel can pump station and piping. The current pump station is 28 feet deep. Public Works employees must now access the pump area three times a week by descending a ladder down an extremely narrow shaft.

In 2011, emergency repairs were needed when one of the pipes broke at the lift station. Brunke described that work as “Band-Aid repairs.” The village has been considering a reconstruction of the lift station since 2013, when Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. was hired to do a preliminary design study.

Burke proposed the reconstruction of the facility, converting a current wet well on the site to a submersible pump station. It would also include modifications to the current piping system and an emergency backup generator.

Brunke said reconstruction of the lift station would be a complex procedure requiring “special attention to detail of work and construction methods to complete the project.” Anything going wrong during the project could have catastrophic consequences – including sewer backups – and result in higher construction costs, he said.

For that reason, Brunke recommended that Flossmoor bypass the regular bid process and that Burke be awarded a so-called design/build contract for a maximum of $350,000. That is the amount the village set aside for the Wood Lift Station project in the current municipal budget.

Under the terms of the contract, Burke would do the final engineering for the project, select a qualified contractor and serve as construction manager.

John Caruso, the head of Burke’s mechanical/electrical engineering department, told board members that his firm has successfully completed similar projects for a number of other towns throughout the Chicago area.

Before approving the plan, board members shared their thoughts on the reconstruction project.

Trustee Philip Minga said the current system – in which village employees regularly climb down the ladder into the pump house – is dangerous and needs to be replaced. Under the Burke proposal, that ladder will not be a part of the new lift station.

“It’s not safe to put people down there three times a week,” Minga said. “It’s a killer – literally.”

Trustee Diane Williams wondered if something can be done to let residents know it’s wrong to flush Swiffer pads down the toilet.

“Can we let people know they shouldn’t be doing this?” she asked.

Brunke said such a notice may be sent out in the village newsletter. Residents need to know how much damage mop heads and rags can cause to the sewer system, he said.

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