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Our View: Sewer replacement is not sexy, but is prudent

You don’t read a lot of news stories about infrastructure functioning properly.

Smooth roads, safe bridges, safe tap water and problem-free sewers don’t make headlines.

But car-damaging potholes and property-destroying sewer backups immediately grab attention.

For the past decade, some area cities have been spending millions of dollars separating formerly combined sanitary and storm sewers.

It doesn’t make for hot news, but sewer-replacement and expansion leads to fewer basement floods.

Sewer improvements won’t always handle the very worst downpours; every sewer system has a capacity, and not every basement in North Central Illinois and Starved Rock Country stayed dry after recent storms.

But as a result of sewer improvements, after monsoon-like rains, fewer residents of La Salle, Peru, Oglesby and Spring Valley had water in their basements than reported flooding after a similar intense rain event in September 2008.

About 40% of La Salle’s sewers will be separated by 2020 after the city completes a major project next year near the east side of Hegeler Park.

For the past decade or so — just after that September 2008 rain event filled many basements to the brim with water and sewage — city of Peru has been spending between $1 million and $2 million each year installing large-capacity storm sewers. The city has been adding massive, modern storm sewers, working from the south (near the Illinois River) to the north. This year, a contractor completed work in the middle of town east and southeast of Washington Park.

As the NewsTribune reported earlier this year, Spring Valley has been working to separate its sewers, and Oglesby replaced a lot of its sewers in the past five years, too.

Some communities used federal-stimulus money from the recession for sewer projects, and some have used grant money.

Not all cities have as large of a revenue stream as Peru to tackle infrastructure projects, so they can’t keep up with their neighbor in correcting sewer problems. There also are a handful of critics who say Peru focuses too much of its efforts on public-works projects rather than other community needs or wishes.

But during recent heavy rains in Peru, there was a lot going on under ground, out of sight, out of mind.

The bigger the storm sewer, the faster the rainwater exits neighborhoods.

And it was nice this past weekend not having to send reporters and photographers out to do stories about basement floods and home damage in La Salle, Peru, Spring Valley and Oglesby neighborhoods.

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