vacuum truck

Hammond Sanitary District officials said this photo shows storm sewer material being dumped improperly behind the Munster Public Works facility. Munster officials believe they are disposing of the material properly.

Provided

HAMMOND — State environmental officials are expected to see if they can clean up a dispute between Hammond and Munster over the proper removal and disposal of storm sewer waste.

Marty Wielgos, manager of the Hammond Sanitary District, contends Munster's method of disposal of material vacuumed out of its stormwater pipes is not in compliance with state regulations.

Munster City Manager Dustin Anderson disagrees and said the town's research shows its disposal of the material does comply with state regulations.

"I feel very confident that the town of Munster is in compliance with all regulations, both state and federal," he said.

Munster is a minority partner in the Hammond Sanitary District, although both are individually responsible for cleaning out their lines. Wielgos said the district is highly regulated and officials had a responsibility to say something when it spotted its minority partner doing something they believed was wrong.

Material vacuumed out of Munster storm sewer pipes has been taken to a public works site in the 500 block of Fisher Street in Munster where it is dried out before being shipped to a certified solid waste site for disposal. Anderson said material taken from sanitary sewer lines, however, still is taken to the Hammond Sanitary District facilities for treatment.

The attorney for the sanitary district, Joe Allegretti, sent an email to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management last Friday asking whether it would be "possible or appropriate" for someone from that agency to "have a look at" the Munster Public Works facility and "otherwise look into the Town's sewer maintenance and Vactor spoils issues?"

Vactor is a brand of vacuum trucks used to clean out material from sewer lines.

Munster town Attorney David E. Wickland had earlier sent a letter to Allegretti noting the district's accusations of the town illegally dumping material at the public works site. Wickland, however, said in his letter that the regulation being cited by a Hammond Sanitary District employee in regard to the issue was not the correct one when it came to the disposing of the material.

"Although our investigation continues, we believe that IDEM will support our position, although we have not received a written opinion from them yet," he wrote. "The upshot of the foregoing is that Munster can continue to deposit storm sewer spoils on Town property, and later remove them to a certified solid waste facility without committing any illegal activity."

Wielgos contends that Munster is wrong and state environmental officials will agree with the district's position. He said if the material is stormwater run off rather than material from sanitary sewer it still will contain "gas, oil and all kinds of stuff."

Wielgos and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. also have expressed concern about how regularly the town cleans out its lines. They noted the amount of material the sanitary district receives from Munster for processing has dropped dramatically over the past few years.

Anderson said instead of vacuuming out all the town's sewer lines, Munster instead now jets out areas where sonar technology shows there is a build up and then vacuums out that material. He said this is a more efficient and less expensive method of cleaning the lines. Wielgos, however, said the town should be vacuuming out all the lines regularly as the city of Hammond does with its lines.

Wielgos said improper cleaning of the lines can negatively impact the sewer system's pumping stations, which the district is responsible for maintaining. He also said it can lead to back-ups in the town of Munster.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.