Congressman Sabo works to secure $1 million to improve city’s sewer system

Minneapolis may soon be in possession of another $1 million to put toward the combined sewer overflow problem, an issue that has literally flooded parts of the city and the Mississippi River for decades.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., secured funds through the House Interior Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2007. The money would aid in decreasing the volume of stormwater entering into the city's combined sewer systems.

In combined sewers, stormwater and wastewater travel inside the same pipe. Excessive rainfall can cause those pipes to overflow, leading to untreated wastewater flowing out of the sewer and into the Mississippi River.

Rhonda Rae, the city's director of engineering services for Public Works, said the federal funds would be of great help to the city, which has used a combination of its own funds and previous federal appropriations to pay for sewer improvements.

&#8220We're trying to eliminate overflows to the river,” Rae said.

In the 1960s, all of Minneapolis' sewers were combined. Today, only about 5 percent remain that way, due to an exhaustive effort by the city to separate stormwater and wastewater into different pipes.

Since 2003, the city has been following a five-year plan to try to prevent further overflows by passing ordinances, starting a community outreach program and making sewer improvements a priority.

Still, the environmental threat created by combined sewer overflows has led to federal and state mandates requiring the city to stop untreated wastewater from entering the Mississippi River. Minneapolis could face fines if no solution is found.

Sabo has also been involved for some time, having secured $2.85 million for the city over the past three years to deal with the overflow issue.

&#8220The city of Minneapolis is working hard to comply with our environmental laws,” Sabo said in a release. &#8220I am pleased to help with local efforts and know this money will be put to good use.”

The bill next moves to the House floor. If approved, it must pass through the Senate and then be signed by the president.