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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Oregon City Council on Monday approved expanding the sanitary backup reduction grant program to further prevent sanitary sewer backup into basements, as well as to reduce storm water inflo/infiltration (I&I) into the sanitary sewer system.

Changes in the grant program include increasing grant funding to disconnect basement floor drains and/or home footer tiles from the sanitary sewer system through the installation of a sump pump.

The program assists private owners by reducing the risk of sanitary sewer backups for properties in Oregon that have plumbing fixtures or sanitary drain openings within their dwelling that are connected to the public sanitary collection system and are lower in elevation than the rim of the next upstream manhole connected to the portion of the collection system serving the dwelling, according to Public Service Director Paul Roman.

“This program works very well, especially for homes that already have a sump pump,” said Roman. “There’s a lot of newer homes in the city that have applied for this grant, received it and it works very well. But again, they have a sump pump keeping their footer tile from going into their basement.”

The program builds upon a backwater valve grant program, which the city has offered since 2008, that reimburses up to $1,000 for the installation of backwater valves on basement fixtures.

Following a big rain event last year, the city conducted several inspections inside homes, and there were several applications for grants, said Roman.

Older homes
“What we discovered is that there’s a lot of older homes in Oregon that don’t have sump pumps. They have a floor drain in their basement and a footer tile or foundation drain going into that floor drain, and then it goes into the sanitary sewer system. In this case, a backwater valve really would not work. It would keep the sanitary out, but your footer tile drain would still go into the basement. We know it would need a sump pump to go along with that. By providing that, we’re also removing storm water from the sanitary sewer system, which is a plus for all of us who pay sanitary sewer bills because we’re paying to treat that storm water. That’s where we justify increasing the grant amount to include that because it does help the sanitary sewer system,” said Roman.

Property owners meeting eligibility requirements may receive financial assistance from the city up to $2,000 per dwelling. Applications will be considered in the order they are received. All building, plumbing, electrical or other fees normally charged by the city for permitted work strictly associated with improvements made in the I&I reduction and basement backup prevention program will be waived.

Since 2007, the city has been actively removing sources of storm water I&I from the sanitary sewer system by the rehabilitation of sanitary sewers, sanitary sewer laterals and sanitary sewer manholes in the city owned right of way. The work is ongoing, as required by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) and the city’s waste water treatment plant’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit.

Sewer backups
Though tremendous strides have been made reducing I&I sources and their impact to the wastewater treatment plant within the city right-of-way, more work needs to be done, specifically on the private side of the sanitary sewer system, according to Roman. Connections of storm water sources such as footer drains, perimeter tiles, downspouts, and sump pumps add millions of gallons of clean water to the sanitary sewer system annually. These storm water connections are prohibited by law, which states that no person shall discharge or cause to be discharged any storm water, surface water, groundwater, roof runoff, subsurface drainage, uncontaminated cooling water, or unpolluted industrial process waters to any sanitary sewer. The addition of the unpolluted water causes sanitary sewer backups into homes and businesses as well as sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) from manholes in the collection system. SSOs can cause significant environmental impact and are prohibited by the OEPA.

“This pays off in real specific ways,” said City Administrator Mike Beazley, “for our basements, our backyards and the Bay. But also for NPDES renewal discussions that are coming up. This sort of program will be looked on as a very smart investment that is a more tangible way of dealing with problems than trying to deal with them at the plant.”

Councilwoman Sandy Bihn agreed.

“I think this is a great program and I’m totally in support of it,” she said.


Septic systems
Bihn said she would like to see similar options available to repair or replace failing septic systems.

“I would hope that Mr. Roman and the administration might come up with an innovative approach with septic systems and the kinds of problems we’re having with them,” said Bihn, who is also executive director of Lake Erie Waterkeeper. Failed septic systems are among the sources that contribute to pollution in the lake, including the development of harmful algal blooms that shut down the supply of tap water to Toledo water customers in 2014.

“I would encourage you…to help those with septic systems and find ways to interact with them so they feel the right thing is going to be done, and a low or no-interest loan could be offered. It seems you’ve been pretty innovative with this other stuff,” she said.

Mayor Mike Seferian agreed that it was difficult to gain the trust of those with bad septic systems to seek repairs or replacements due to high costs.

“The one thing we try to do is to try to make sanitary sewers available to people when they’re in dire need of repair,” said Seferian. “It’s also very tough because it’s expensive. But if we explain in great detail how sanitary sewers are put in, even though it is a big expense, we will do everything to try to keep costs as equitable of a dollar amount as possible. It takes a lot of romancing to get people to understand that. We try to make it affordable – traditionally we’ve gone to a 15 year plan for sanitary sewer assessments. We try to come up with numbers that are the easiest to deal with. But it’s still expensive,” said Seferian.

“Not everyone with a septic system has access to sewers,” said Bihn, adding there should be more options available to upgrade broken septic systems.

“We try to do our best by making people aware of all the things that are out there,” said Seferian. “That’s one thing we really don’t have a program for. Advice, direction and information is all we do right now for that.”

The sanitary backup reduction grant program intends to cost share the backwater valve grant improvements that remove storm water I&I sources from the sanitary sewer. These improvements may be completed together.

A grant application packet can be obtained from Oregon’s Building/Zoning Division, 5330 Seaman Road, or by calling 419 698-7071. The city recommends a consultation with Oregon’s plumbing inspector to know what will be required prior to having a contractor quote the job. An appointment can be made by calling 419 698-7071. A minimum of two quotes for the planned work from contractors licensed to work in Oregon must be obtained. Submit the quotes along with the grant program application and a completed W-9 tax form to the Building/Zoning Division. Once the application is approved by the city, the work will begin. Completed work will need to be inspected by the city’s plumbing inspector prior to reimbursement. Once the work has been inspected, the city will either reimburse the property owner for the work or pay the contractor directly.

 

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