‘It doesn’t work for me’Washington City Council hears of basement twice flooded with raw sewage
David Nacos said that he hadn’t intended to comment on the Washington City Council’s discussion on sewer infiltration issues, but decided to after listening to discussion and feeling the council wasn’t doing enough.
Nacos said that on two occasions his basement had flooded with backups from the sewer. He said the damage had cost him well over $22,000. He said he recently had to remove everything from his finished basement for the second time after it flooded with raw sewage during a rainstorm on April 18. He said that he has to put in a backstop valve at a cost of about $2,000. He said that a project to fix sewer infiltrations that will take years isn’t acceptable.
“It is a little irritating to hear that I don’t know when it is going to get fixed,” he said. “I can’t even fix the basement.”
Council member Bob Shellmyer, who had asked that the council discuss the sewer issue, requested the city pay to install the backflow valve. He asked that the issue be put on the next meeting’s agenda.
Nacos said after the event there had been 8 inches of standing water in his basement, even with two sump pumps working. He reported the sewage “pouring” out of his shower drain.
“I paid for a service and they doubled my rates and this is what I am going to get?” Nacos said. “I think, guys, that I feel a little shafted on this.”
City administrator Brent Hinson said that the city would make every effort to find the problem. He said if there is a dropped pipe in the system, it would be an easy fix. Nacos said that the city has had 13 months since the first incident to find the problem.
Hinson said that he hopes the city can get the issue fixed shortly, but that he couldn’t guarantee it because the city didn’t know what the problem was. He said the city examined 15 miles of sewer pipes last year. He also said that if the city had a few days of drier weather, the condition of the line could be assessed. Shellmyer said that he expected to hear the report when the council meets on May 22.
“If drier weather makes a difference, that tells you that you have an infiltration issue,” Shellmyer said. “A sanitary sewer has no relation to weather.”
Council member Merle Hagie told Nacos the council was behind him, but it was a question of examining the sewer pipes in the area to determine the problem.
Nacos said he hadn’t approached the council after the first incident of his basement flooding with sewage and had just incurred the expense himself. He said he had spoken with city maintenance and construction supervisor J.J. Bell about the first issue.
Earlier in the meeting when the council discussed the issue Hinson said there are sewer issues with old piping and cross connections. He said sewers are prominent in the city’s capital improvement plan. He said there are no easy, immediate, or low-cost solutions to the sewer problem.
“It is a big problem,” Hinson said. “It’s a very big problem for most cities. It is a really big problem for cities that had a major portion built over 100 years ago.”
Shellmyer suggested using funds from somewhere else for sewer upgrades and repairs. He distributed a chart from the National Weather Service showing rainfall and marking backup that began about two years ago. It showed rainfall in previous years, where there was as much or more precipitation, but no backups had occurred.
“In my estimation — and I’m not the smartest guy in the world nor am I an engineer — something has changed,” he said. “Instead of saying we can’t fix it or that it is too expensive to fix, let’s find out what the fix is.”
Mayor Sandra Johnson asked Shellmyer, when tracking rainfall, to use the official Washington statistics, which are taken at the sewer plant.
Shellmyer also said that he had asked the council to speak about the issue at the last meeting, at which he was absent. He said he was upset the council hadn’t addressed the issue. Council member Fred Stark asked if Shellmyer had put the issue on the agenda.
The discussion turned to the camera used to examine the inside of sewer lines. Shellmyer said that the camera, which the city received late last summer, hadn’t been used much. Johnson said there had been a meeting earlier Wednesday with the city in which workers had said the inflow into the pipe was too high to allow for camera usage. Hagie suggested the cameras be used after 10:30 p.m.
Nacos said he has lived in the house for 20 years, and for 18 of the years there hadn’t been a problem. He said he believes there hasn’t been a concerted effort from the city to fix the problem.
“If we think for one second, with the kind of taxes I pay, that that is what I can expect – I’m sorry, it doesn’t work for me,” he said.