Temporary solution offered for sewer problems

Published 9:50 am Friday, July 24, 2009

IRONTON —Responding to the plight of angry and frustrated residents fed up with basement flooding caused by heavy rains that taxed its combined sewer overflow system, city officials laid out plans to install preventative water valves at any home plagued by flooding the past two months.

The announcement, made at Thursday night’s city council meeting, comes 12 days after the second of two torrential downpours in less than a month backed up the city’s antiquated combined sewer system, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in flood damage to homes mainly on the city’s south side.

The valves, officially called extendable backwater valves, prevent sewage backup into a residence or building as a result of a plugged sewer system, excess volume in the system or groundwater flooding.

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They are designed to be installed easily outside a home, business or other structure without the use of a costly manhole and are easily cleanable.

The extendable valves consist of a T-shaped valve body with an attached flapper similar to ones inside a toilet tank. In the event of back pressure caused by plugs or overcapacity, the flapper blocks the reverse flow and prevents a sewage backup.

Engineer consultant Doug Cade of E.L. Robinson gave a hands on demonstration of how the valve operates.

Mayor Rich Blankenship told council the city would begin installing the backwater values as early as Monday to homeowners who already have been in touch with his office regarding flood damage.

The mayor urged anyone who experienced sewer backup in their homes from either the June 12 or July 11 storms to call his office immediately at (740) 532-3833 to set up an appointment for installation.

The costs of purchasing the PVC backwater valves and installing them will be paid entirely by the city through wastewater funds. Blankenship said Ironton already has hired an outside contractor to perform the installations.

Most installations will happen in the alleyways behind the affected homes.

Blankenship’s announcement seemed to ease the aggravation of many in attendance who spent the first 45 minutes of council chastising the city for allowing the backups to happen in the first place.

Homeowners took turns explaining how portions of their homes were destroyed as a result of the backups that saw human waste, grass and toilet paper floating around in their basements. Many were longtime residents who never had seen anything like it before.

“We don’t want to live like this anymore,” Cindy Barnes of South 11th Street told council.

“I had human feces, rain water and grass from one end of my house to another. My dog was drowning in it,” explained homeowner Adam Brown. “My toilet looked like Old Faithful.”

“We ended up with 18 to 20 inches of rain in our basement,” Terri Fisher who lives near the corner of 10th and Vine said.

Blankenship agreed with those wanting quick results and assistance from the city on the impending damage costs associated with it.

“I want this problem fixed as much as they do,” the mayor said after the meeting.

The temporary fix comes just as the city embarks on replacing all 61 miles of its heavily-dated, combined sanitary sewer lines over the next 17 years.

The $23 million, five-phase project has the city completing design approval by 2011 and with a July 2012 construction start date.

Phase one would separate storm and sanitary sewers between Orchard Street and Hanging Rock while eliminating both the Nash and First Streets combined sewer overflow and the Orchard Street combined sewer overflow.

The areas that experienced flooding due to the recent storms are part of the phase three.