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‘City of Pumps’

Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 3:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, July 8, 2013 3:47 p.m. CDT

For Princeton to grow we cannot ignore any longer what lies beneath the ground; it’s sewers. I’ve heard it said many cities have sewer back up issues – and it’s true. These comments, however, make it sound as though it’s a valid excuse for our problems; it isn’t. My overriding concern is our problem; how it affects our residents; and how we’re going to fix it.

In 2003 two department heads addressed the city council on the condition of our 175 miles of sanitary sewer lines. They said we could be losing 50 percent of our sewer line capacity due to structural defects, sags in the lines, cracks, holes and misaligned pipes. They said, “The dilemma of the sanitary sewers has always been the same … undersized, underestimated and underground.” Since their presentation, the city has spent $40 million on various projects. Of this amount nothing that wasn’t mandated by the state of Illinois was spent on improving our sewer lines. There was work on lift stations and sewer extensions benefiting Greencroft, and a retention pond was built, but the root of our problem, our underground sewer lines, were all but ignored.

Most everyone would like to see the city grow. The city owns property marketed for growth. To support the new water plant the city predicted that within 6.5 years, Princeton’s population will grow to 8,124. Assume for a minute this is accurate. What will it mean to an already stressed system if 424 people are added to our city and given access to our sewers? We can’t handle our current population as it is. Think about it; we put 12 pumps out, even if there’s a threat of heavy rain. 

No one should experience sewer back up, but many do. It’s the result of inadequate planning and neglect. It’s an underground, out-of-sight problem that’s been set aside in favor of visual projects developed for the yet unfulfilled promise of growth which, if it occurs, could have an adverse effect on the quality of life of many more residents.

The city is currently studying the flooding issues in the northeast area of town and in Greencroft. It’s needed, but it’s not enough. If we’re going to fix the totality of the problem, we need to perform a city-wide inspection of all sewer lines. Group them into five categories, from worse to best; the worse needing immediate attention. We then address the worst by determining how much it’ll cost to fix and then find a way to pay for it. When the worst are fixed, we move to the second worse and so on. 

We can’t ignore the problem any longer. It’s either a priority or it’s not. If it’s not, then community pride has diminished. If it’s not, we will have gone from being known as the once proud City of Elms and where Tradition meets Progress … to the City of Pumps.

Commissioner Joel Quiram

Princeton

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