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Fort Madison Waiting for Rain

Fort Madison is optimistic that the drought of 2012 will not end up costing it millions of dollars.

Cities up and down the Mississippi River maintain aging, combined sewer systems.

The systems allow raw sewage to reach the river during heavy rain.

Keokuk and Burlington, for example, are separating their systems to stop the overflows.  One pipe would handle sewage while the other would carry rainwater to the river.

Fort Madison is taking a different approach.  It built a facility in Riverview Park to treat the sewage overflow before it reaches the river.

City Manager Byron Smith said the problem is that there has not been enough rain to test the system and prove to the EPA that it will work.

“We are preparing a report for (the EPA) that’s due at the end of this year,” said Smith.    “Then we will go forward and probably ask (the EPA) for some more time and we will see if (the EPA) is going to be amenable to that or not.”

Smith says the city is worried that the EPA will require it to start separating its sewer system before the testing of the treatment facility is complete.

Keokuk is expected to spend around $75-million dollars over the next 20 years separating its sewer system.