Peru and the state’s EPA disagree on what caused a sewer burst near La Salle High School-Peru last year – Shaw Local

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State and city officials in Peru are at odds over what caused a sewer burst last year that cost $282,000 in damage and polluted a ravine south of La Salle High School-Peru, turning the water black and the air filled with the smell of raw sewage, records show.

The city in Peru attributed the damage to a company dumping concrete and other debris into the ravine. The state’s EPA, however, says the sewer burst was due to a blockage unrelated to the company’s spill in the area, records show.

“The concrete spill made it difficult to access the area to clear the blockage, but did not cause the sewer to collapse,” said Kim Briggs, Illinois EPA public information officer. .

On September 14, 2021, the city of Peru was notified of a sewer overflow at the ravine. According to a Peruvian police report, several eyewitnesses said they repeatedly saw a company’s concrete trucks washing their tanks of concrete mix into the ravine.

Photos were taken of the visible concrete debris, and La Salle-Peru High School provided the city with video surveillance of trucks dumping materials.

The city initiated its sewer collapse protocols and notified IEPA within 24 hours, according to correspondence between the city and the state agency obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

IEPA inspected the area two days later and found “offensive conditions … in East Ravine as the water was dark black in color and smelled of raw sewage,” according to an agency report. IEPA sent Peru’s Mayor Ken Kolowski an official Notice of Violation for the sewer collapse on December 16, 2021.

In email correspondence, city officials attributed the sewer rupture to the concrete spill, records show.

In a September 14, 2021 email, Scott Schweickert, the city’s corporate attorney for Peru, referred to the incident as “dumping…which damaged the city’s sewer line” to the superintendent. Steven Wrobleski from La Salle High School-Peru. A police report of the incident cites “there were problems with the sewer due to large amounts of cement spilling over the hill”.

Nonetheless, no charges or citations were brought against the company, and the case was referred to Peru’s engineering department, Peru’s police chief Bob Pyszka said.

The company did not respond to multiple NewsTribune requests for comment. The NewsTribune is withholding the company’s name, for now, because it was not cited and the IEPA concluded that its alleged dumping did not contribute to the sewer burst.

Through its inspection, IEPA determined that the cause of the sewer collapse was a blockage. Briggs, the IEPA spokeswoman, said Peru City Engineer Eric Carls confirmed the IEPA finding, identifying the cause of the sewer break as a blockage, finding ” several sandbags, a broken piece of pipe, and a large piece of asphalt pavement, which created a blockage for the downstream reverser.

Schweickert said the city has been investigating the illegal dumping contributing to the sewer break for some time.

“It’s a contested dispute and we’re trying to resolve it,” Schweickert said, adding that the company has been cooperative and the parties are close to a resolution.

Schweickert did not say whether the company would be held liable for allegedly contributing to the burst sewers, citing ongoing litigation.

Knowingly dumping trash, construction debris, or other materials in unapproved locations can be considered a criminal offense, ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony, depending on the amount dumped. Illegal dumping is also a violation of the IEPA, and the IEPA requires local government officials and law enforcement officers to investigate and file charges if necessary.

On July 5, Peru’s city council approved and paid for the sewer repair to be completed by construction company JW Ossola for $282,771. At the July 5 council meeting, Carls said the solution would involve rerouting the sewer due to the “compromised hill on the ravine due to dumping activity”.

Alderman Jim Lukosus asked during the meeting if the company would help resolve the issue, and Schweickert said the topic would be discussed behind closed doors.

“It’s about some order violations and we’re working … toward a resolution, and they’ve been very cooperative,” Schweickert said. “It has not yet been resolved, but when it is, it will come before the board for approval.”

Kolowski and Carls declined to answer questions about the sewer break and instead referred to Schweickert.

The Illinois EPA has given Peru until August 31, 2022 to complete the sewer diversion repair. After receiving the notice of violation from the EPA in December 2021, Peru submitted a permit application to the Illinois EPA on January 12, 2022 to seek approval to repair the sewer. Peru also requested to enter into a compliance undertaking agreement with the Illinois EPA to resolve the violation, and Kolowski signed the agreement on March 29.

The permit was approved by the Illinois EPA on April 1.

Carls said it was difficult to find a contractor to take on the job at the July 5 council meeting, but did not say why, with four out of six contractors rejecting the project proposal. On July 5, the council approved JW Ossola’s bid to complete the sewer diversion, and Kolowski signed the declaration of compliance on August 18, signifying that the project was complete, meeting the August 31 deadline.

Restoration work is still underway at the site, according to a Sept. 26 statement Carls made at the city’s public utilities committee meeting.

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