Duluth's Private Sewer Grant program depleted for 2014 year

By KBJR News 1

January 14, 2014 Updated Jan 14, 2014 at 11:25 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The status of the Private Sewer Grant program in Duluth has caused some homeowners with pipe problems to reach deeper into their pockets.

The Private Sewer Grant program was originally set up in 2008 to help homeowners pay for fixes to their lateral lines in light of the city's on–going sanitary sewer over flow problem.

"The whole goal of the program was to eliminate clear water from getting into the city sanitary sewer system and stop the overflows," said Eric Shaffer, Duluth's chief engineer.

The program provides homeowners with an 80% reimbursement for lateral sewer line repairs, making a big difference in out of pocket costs.

However, the programs funds for 2014 have been depleted due to an accumulated back log from 2013.

"The city simply does not have the funds available to take on any more laterals, because we just have no money," said Shaffer.

...forcing homeowners to bear the costs of leaking sewer lines.

"Last week my sewer line partially collapsed so I wanted to go through the process of getting the grant to be able to repair my sewer. So what was going to be a $2,000 – $2,500 expense is now going to be closer to $5 or $6–thousand," said Ben Fornear, a Duluth homeowner.

And with Duluth's aging housing stock...

"The sewer lines, if they're more than 50–60 years old, can go at any time," said Fornear.

The fund was created in accordance with an agreement between the city, the state of Minnesota, the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection agency.

If the requirements of that agreement can be waived, city engineers say the program may end all together.

"If that occurs, the mandatory program will no longer be necessary," said Shaffer.

The consent decree currently requires the city to replace 175 laterals per year as a mandatory process for residents.

Elsa Robins