WHEELING – Implementation of a pilot downspout daylighting program in Wheeling was delayed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but city leaders are now ready to move on. ‘forward to help reduce basement flooding in certain neighborhoods.
Some urban areas are constantly inundated during heavy rains. Wheeling is working to help solve much of the problem with its combined sanitary sewer and stormwater separation projects.
Yet Wheeling’s public works manager Russell Jebbia said this week that residents in affected areas must also do their part to help.
“Right now, in Wheeling, 70 to 75% of our sewers are probably still mixed sewers” Jebbia told members of the council’s Public Works Commission this week, noting that the Bedillion Lane project which took place in Woodsdale and Edgwood is an example of a major sewer separation.
One lingering problem, Jebbia said, is that some areas where sewage separation has already taken place – like Clator, Mill Acres in Elm Grove and several areas in Warwood – are still inundated.
“The main reason for the basement flooding is that people still have their downspouts connected to our sanitary sewers,” he said. “When it’s not raining, we don’t have a problem with the sewers backing up people’s basements.”
During heavy rains, water flowing through people’s downspouts and sanitary sewer lines overwhelms the system, which recedes. Then, rainwater mixed with raw sewage back up into the basements of many residents.
“We shouldn’t have any of these problems when we have a separate system” Jebbia said. “The storm water should be able to flow into the storm system, which drains into the stream and the river. It is a simple problem to solve.
Typically, downspouts connected to the sanitary sewer system direct water into a pipe that is only 4 inches in diameter, Jebbia said. He added that “It’s not rocket science” to understand that these pipes cannot handle a volume of water coming from heavy rains. Jebbia has said nine out of 10 times that homes with flooded basements have downspouts connected to their sewage systems.
Although each residence has different downspout configurations and variables with neighboring properties and distance to the street, officials noted that rainwater must be diverted to the edge so that it flows into the area. storm sewer system, not in the sanitary sewer system.
Last year, the natural lighting program for the downspouts was due to start in the Clator district. However, municipal officials from the Water Pollution Control Division and Stormwater Coordinator Joe Smith were expected to go door-to-door to help educate residents on the best ways to separate their downspouts. from the sewer system. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this pilot program has been suspended – until now.
“City officials are more than willing to come and help people with suggestions on how to do it,” Jebbia said, noting that it is a voluntary program in which all residents of affected areas will be invited to participate.
The city will send letters explaining how the program works and offering suggestions on how to carry out the work. In many situations, the natural lighting of the downspout will be simple, officials said. An elbow piece can be installed on the downspout, water can be directed away from the house on a splash guard, and the lower spout that connects to the sewer system can be clogged. This can be done at minimal cost, officials noted.
“As for the cost of splash guards – the cheapest are $ 5 to $ 6,” Smith said. “An elbow is a few dollars. In general, you should keep the line 3 to 5 feet away from your house so that it does not run back onto your property.
Smith suggested that local Boy Scout troops and 4-H groups could even contribute to the effort as a community project to help them earn badges.
“We understand that not all downspouts can be removed from the system”, Jebbia said. “There are some situations where you just can’t take them out – there’s nowhere to go without causing property damage to someone else. But if we can eliminate 50-60% of it, that will be a huge improvement for our system. “
Some connections will be more difficult and costly to resolve, and in some cases, it may not even be possible to disconnect them, Jebbia noted, adding that people cannot simply redirect water to the yard or the yard. neighbor’s basement. But the more fixes that can be done correctly, he said, the better.
“The cost associated with that, I’m sure, is a drop in the bucket compared to what these people spend cleaning up their sewage and flooding their basements three or four times a year.” said City Councilor Ty Thorngate.
“In most areas, it won’t take much”, Jebbia said. “But we have to start somewhere.”
Officials have said they may explore the possibility of using US bailout funds to fix more difficult and costly connection issues.
The public works committee agreed to City Manager Robert Herron asking city staff to move forward with the downspout daylighting pilot program immediately.