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Mazomanie acts to avoid "catastrophic" failure of sewer line by creek

 

June 27, 2019

Autumn Luedke

Above, the flooding in the summer of 2018 and the high water this past spring have changed the water flow of the Black Earth Creek behind Mazomanie resident Kevin Murphy's home. As a result, he has lost about 1,000 feet of property where the new water flow has carved out a bowl in Murphy's property. A sewer lateral put in by the village on Murphy's property sits just a few feet from the deepest part of the erosion in the bowl. Below, Mazomanie resident Kevin Murphy stands on his property where it meets the Black Earth Creek. The recent flooding has sped up the shoreline's natural erosion process considerably, threatening to expose a sewer lateral underground on Murphy's property put in by the village years ago.

The erosion of land along a section of the Black Earth Creek is at critical mass and could have a big impact on the village's water if not quickly addressed.

A section of land along Mazomanie resident Kevin Murphy's property where it meets the Black Earth Creek had slowly been eroding – something the village looked into years ago. But last year's flood has compounded the issue, with erosion happening at a quicker pace. Years ago the village installed a sewer lateral along the back of Murphy's property, and it now carries about 60-70 percent of the village's raw sewage, according to Mazomanie Public Works Director Mark Geisler. If the erosion meets up with the lateral and the lateral fails, Geisler told members of the Mazomanie village board during a June 11 meeting the results would be "catastrophic."

"It's been on our radar for the past six-to-seven years," Geisler told the board. "Years ago the village hired Jewell and Associates to do a study and cost analysis to have it repaired, but at the time it wasn't considered an immediate threat. There were discussions about seeking grant money and other means of funding."

In the meantime, Murphy said he has tried his own efforts at slowing down the erosion. At one point, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offered Murphy and other property owners an "opportunity for an easement." Because Murphy had already lost a lot of land due to natural erosion – and affording the DNR the opportunity to acquire some of the property would mean a section of his land would be available for public use, Murphy declined.

"My wife and I have been there 13 years now," Murphy said. "I asked members of the DNR when they were out there what we could do as good stewards to the land, and they said there was nothing they could do, that it was just the way it is."

When Murphy looked into what it would take to restore it, he learned it would be a lot more effort and money than he could afford.

"Then the two floods came, and the way the sediment settled, it created a whole new route for the water to flow. I told the village it was going to create a problem. We knew it was a potential issue, but we thought it was years out and wasn't on our radar."

"This was compounded by the flood last August; a big sand and gravel deposit about size of room was left (in the creek's main path)," Geisler said. It now directs the water into an inside corner, where Murphy's property meets up with the creek.

Autumn Luedke

Above, the flooding in the summer of 2018 and the high water this past spring have changed the water flow of the Black Earth Creek behind Mazomanie resident Kevin Murphy's home. As a result, he has lost about 1,000 feet of property where the new water flow has carved out a bowl in Murphy's property. A sewer lateral put in by the village on Murphy's property sits just a few feet from the deepest part of the erosion in the bowl. Below, Mazomanie resident Kevin Murphy stands on his property where it meets the Black Earth Creek. The recent flooding has sped up the shoreline's natural erosion process considerably, threatening to expose a sewer lateral underground on Murphy's property put in by the village years ago.

"It has compounded the problem over the past seven months – far more damage has taken place over the last half year than over the last six years," Geisler said. "This is an emergency repair that can't get fixed soon enough."

At a previous meeting, board members granted Geisler the permission to seek emergency work on the issue, with a repair cost capped at $25,000. Geisler was back in front of the board June 11 to seek permission to continue – however the cost is now estimated at just over $35,000. That will include adding 200 feet of rock and 425 tons of armour stone, dredging on the stream and restoration of Murphy's property. Armour stone is a natural quarry stone, typically chosen for its resilience and resistance to wear and erosion.

Geisler said they have contracted with Boehnen Inc., an excavating contractor from Cross Plains, with work expected to start June 24. The project is estimated to take a week to complete.

Mazomanie Village Board President Gary Harrop reminded board members the projected had not been budgeted for and would likely involve some borrowing. He said the DNR will not help with funding the repair work. Harrop also suggested the board re-word Geisler's authorization request to not specify a dollar amount in case any emergency action has to occur in the meantime.

 
 

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