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tcsheriffoffice120Over the past four years the Tompkins County Public Safety Building, including the jail, on Warren Road has clogged the Village of Lansing sewer three times.  At least two of those times clogs caused damage to neighboring properties, plus the expense to Village taxpayers of unclogging the sewer.   Mayor Donald Hartill says the municipality has had enough... either the Sheriff's Department cleans up its act by installing what amounts to a giant garbage disposal, or the Village will install a screen that will corral sewer backups onto the Sheriff Department lawn.

"We will protect our system," Hartill says.  "The protection will be a screen that will permit normal material to get through, and prevent this material from getting through.  That manhole will fill up, and it will be in their yard, not somebody else's yard."

Hartill says that effluent from the jail contains paper towels, foodstuff, and other items that are inappropriate to flush down a municipal sewer.  The first incident took place near Northwoods Drive.  About a year and a half later a second clog flooded some apartments on Graham Road with sewage, and the third backed up on the dairy cooperative property on Warren Road.  Hartill says that the latter asked for monetary compensation, but that the Village is not liable for the incidents.

Nevertheless, it costs the Village between one and two thousand dollars each time it has to unstop the sewer.  The clogs are repaired with a high pressure water flusher that not only breaks up the clog, but infuses enough water into the system to guarantee that the material will make it all the way to the Cayuga Heights Sewer Plant.  The Village either hires a local company that owns a flusher, or uses one owned by Cayuga Heights, often paying Village employees overtime.  The Mayor has helped Superintendent of Public Works John Courtney unplug some of the clogs.

Hartill says that he will now take measures to force the Sheriff's Department to deal with the clogs it creates.  He notes that finding a solution once and for all will not only protect current neighbors, but also the businesses, apartments, and homes in the Town of Lansing that will be hooking up to the Warren Road Sewer Project line, which will feed into the line that serves the Public Safety Building.

"It's happened over the last four years," he says.  "It happens about every year and a half, and we talk to them about it.  They behave well.  It lasts about a year and a half, then we're back in the same boat again.  We're about due for the next plug."

Hartill says there are two choices.  The County can install a grinder pump, with breaks up waste into smaller pieces that the sewer can handle before dumping them in the sewer.  These devices can cost one to three thousand dollars.

tc_jail400Tompkins County Jail

If the County does not agree to install a grinder he says the Village will take matters into its own hands and install a grate that will allow smaller particles to flow into the sewer, but stop large items, or items like paper towels that do not break down like toilet paper does.  When enough material clogs the screen, waste from the Public Safety Building will overflow from the manhole on the premises.

Sewer clogs have originated from other locations in the Village.  The Village flushes out the system near the Triphammer Mall annually to break up grease clogs from restaurants.  Hartill says that even with a Village mandate that restaurants install grease traps, grease builds in the sewer over time.  He says that about a dozen years ago one such clog worked its way all the way to Cayuga Heights Road where it flooded the basement of a home that had a toilet installed without a backflow preventer.

"All I know is that we end up with paper towels, orange peels, parts or apples, miscellaneous things that are entirely inappropriate to put into a municipal sewer," Hartill says.

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