City asks residents to check sump pump and gutter connections


AMBOY — In the City of Amboy, the sanitary and storm sewer systems are separate. All stormwaters, surface waters and ground waters shall be directed only to the city’s storm sewer system. The city reminds all property owners within the city that Section 78-197 of the city code of the City of Amboy prohibits the discharge of any stormwater, surface water, groundwater, roof runoff, and subsurface drainage into the city’s sanitary sewer system.  

The City of Amboy is currently investigating changes that need to be made to its sanitary sewer collection and treatment systems to ensure that the city has adequate capacity for its current population, and to accommodate future growth. 

The City of Amboy is requesting all owners of real estate within the city to check all sump pump and gutter connections to confirm such connections are not improperly connected to the city’s sanitary system. If such illegal connections to the city’s sanitary system exist, owners shall cause them to be promptly disconnected and connected only to the city’s stormwater system. 

Illegal connections cause the city’s sanitary sewer system to be overloaded during periods of heavy rains and the thawing of winter snow and ice. 

Amboy’s current treatment facility is designed to treat an average 500,000 gallons of sewage per day, with a maximum emergency capacity of 1.25 million gallons. In February 2018, the city pumped over 25 million gallons, an average of just under 900,000 gallons per day. Based on data from the water plant, actual sewer flow was just over 11 million gallons for February. That means 14 million gallons of the water that that city pumped to the sewer lagoons was rain water or ground water. Most wet months are like this.

Some of this water comes from ground water, seeping in through cracks in the pipes, but most comes from sump pumps that are improperly connected to the sanitary sewer. Sump pumps are capable of pumping 60 gallons per minute. If a pump runs for half the day, cycling on and off every 30 seconds, it runs for 720 minutes. At 60 gallons per minute, it will have pumped 43,200 gallons of water. Ten sump pumps running at this rate will pump as much as the city’s normal sewer flow. 

How does Amboy’s collection and treatment system work?

To move from the main sewer trunks to the city’s lagoon system, the wastewater from each house/business must be pumped, either at either the Commercial Street lift station, or Rockyford lift station.  

Once in the lagoon system, if flows are at the design limit of 500,000 gallons per day, it takes about 60 days to move through and exit the ponds. During this time, the city adds air to the water, and use air mixers to provide oxygen to the microbes that break down the sewage. The water then moves by gravity to the river.  

Flows larger than the design limit of the lagoon system mean that the water must move through the system more quickly, reducing the time for the bacteria to break down the sewage. To combat this, the city has to add more air, an extra blower, and they purchase bacteria and enzymes to add to the wastewater. This is necessary to ensure that the city meets the limits for the quality of the water being discharged to the Green River, keeping it safe for recreational uses.

Why does it matter?

When storm water is pumped into the city’s sanitary sewer system, it causes issues in many different ways:

• Excess flow in the sanitary sewer lines causes backups in those lines, which may lead to basement backups and overflows into nearby creeks and yards, putting public health at risk and violating state and federal regulations.

• All water that goes into the city’s sanitary sewer system must be pumped out to the lagoons. Extra rainwater means more electricity to run the pumps.

• Costs to treat the water in the lagoons increase with the increase in flow. Those costs are paid to customers.

• The cost to expand the city’s lagoon system to treat the increased flow is very high and would be paid for by sewer rate increases.

The City of Amboy is asking its residents to check your sump pump. If it is connected to the sewer, it needs to be re-routed to pump into the ditch or your yard, not into your neighbor’s yard. If you are unable to inspect the connection, or are not sure if the connection is proper, contact City Hall at 815-857-3814 and they will have someone assist you.

Who can change the connection?

The homeowner can do this. If you don’t feel comfortable making the change, but have a handyman that does work for you, they can do it. If not, any licensed plumber is able to make the change.  

Do I have to do this?

In an effort to reduce infiltration of stormwaters and drainage into the city’s sanitary system, the city plans to begin testing the city’s sanitary system to discover illegal connections. 

Any real estate owner who is discovered to have an illegal connection will be required to disconnect the illegal connection from the sanitary system. 

Amboy City ordinance #78-197 makes it illegal to have a sump pump connected to the sanitary sewer, and provides for a fine of up to $720 per day if it is not corrected.