The Inola Board of Trustees announced Monday plans to alert Inola residents, by distributing letters, that property owners are responsible for covering or repairing sewer cleanout lines on their property, and that failure to do so could result in their water being shut off.

Discussion of this issue started in July and the item has been on the public works authority agenda three times.

The issue caused by improperly covered sewer cleanouts is called “inflow and infiltration,” a phrase used to describe the ways that groundwater and stormwater enter the sanitary sewer system. In severe cases it can cause the whole sewer system to backup and overflow, creating an environmental hazard.

This issue is one of several in Inola’s water and sewer system that was noted in the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Qualities consent order with the city.

Introducing an agenda item that suggested creating a city ordinance with a fine, Mayor Larry Grigg said inflow and infiltration, “could fall under public nuisance. It affects the health and safety of the town.”

“The problem is it’s doing us no good to write more stuff if we’re not taking care of it,” said Trustee Dan Corle. “We’ve got a real bad issue right now, and I’m getting beat up for it, on ordinances.”

Corle said he would prefer to give citizens a notice by letter and door hanger that they had a certain number of days to correct the issue, and that Utilities Director James Kilpatrick would inspect all the sewer cleanout lines after that time period and provide a notice of water shut-off to people who hadn’t fixed the issue.

“It’s not an expensive fix,” Corle said. Online, PVC cleanout plugs run from $2-7 on average.

Corle said that shutting off people’s water was preferable to issuing fines because fines would be an additional strain on an already strained police department.

“Another thing is the police department is not going to know if it’s been corrected,” Corle said.

Kilpatrick raised the issue of the legality of his inspecting lines on private property.

“You can be in their yard to inspect. You can be in their yard for sewer easements, water easements, utility easements, all yards in this town have type of utility easement in them,” Corle said. “They are either going to have to let you inspect it or they are going to get their water shut off. They’ve got the choice.”

“That will work, but what will we do in the future?”, asked Trustee Lonnie Chasteen. “We’ve got these 100 or so right now, but what about upcoming ones when people run over it with a mower or something?” T

he town discussed potentially writing an ordinance in the future, but opted to formally take no action at this time while they have Kilpatrick deliver notices to residents currently in violation.