City to Watertown Homeowners: Protect Against Sewer Backup

City to Watertown Homeowners: Protect Against Sewer Backup

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If you had flooding or a sewer back up during the heavy rains earlier this fall, the city of Watertown wants you to know how to protect your home or property from future problems.

Dozens of homes, other buildings, and streets flooded during rain storms on October 9 and October 29-30.

While the city makes improvements to it's sewer system during large projects like the Factory Street makeover, officials want people to take steps of their own.

"Every property, every building is unique. It needs to be inspected very closely to determine what the best course of action is if any is necessary," said Justin Wood, city engineer, Friday.

Officials say you should get a master plumber to take a look at your property.

You can call either the City's Engineering Department or Code Enforcement and they'll put you in touch with a plumber.

Wood issued the following statement on this fall's rains and flooding, and what property owners should do to protect themselves.

During the heavy rain events on October 9th and October 29-30th, extraordinary amounts of precipitation (3.67 inches and 6.2 inches respectively) inundated streets and sewer systems throughout Jefferson County. Rain events of this magnitude are rare, and were exacerbated by already saturated soil conditions from the wet Fall season we experienced. The resulting storm water runoff and ground water may have contributed to flooded basements and, in some cases, sewer backups into buildings.

A sewer backup may occur when the storm or sanitary sewer main surcharges (flows at full capacity under pressure) and backflows into the building through the sewer service (a pipe connecting the sewer main to the building). The backflow typically enters the building through the lowest fixture in the house, such as a floor drain (if connected to the sewer service), or washing machine drain line in the basement, or toilet, etc. The pressure from the backflow can, in some cases, also cause plumbing pipe joints to fail, thus allowing sewer to enter the building.

A sewer backup may also occur when a property owner’s sewer service becomes clogged with tree roots and/or debris or grease, preventing wastewater from flowing to the sewer main and causing a backup into the building. While clogged or broken sewer services and ground water flooding into basements are issues property owners must resolve, the City is actively taking steps to improve the sewer infrastructure to reduce the frequency and severity of sewer surcharge events which may contribute to sewer backups.

The City of Watertown owns and maintains a vast sewer network consisting of many miles of pipe and hundreds of structures, constructed over many decades since the late 1800’s, much of which is a combined sewer system. There is a committed and ongoing effort to make improvements to the sanitary and storm sewer networks throughout the City, such as separating combined sewer systems which accept storm and sanitary sewer flows, improving the health of the Black River by reducing overflow events, increasing the capacity of the sewer network, and prioritizing improvements to target the most vulnerable areas impacted by heavy rain events.

The recently completed Factory Street Reconstruction Project invested almost $3 million dollars into storm and sanitary sewer improvements. In the next few years, over $8 Million dollars in capital projects are budgeted to continue improving the sewer networks across the City.

It is evident the recent storm events in October 2017 impacted many properties across the City of Watertown, and affected many people’s lives. The emergency calls, flooded basements, sewer backups, and flood observations are all being analyzed to identify the most vulnerable infrastructure and neighborhoods, and to help prioritize future improvements.

If you experienced a sewer backup into your building during these events, or in a previous event, we encourage you to contact the City of Watertown’s Department of Engineering as you consider options to protect your property from future sewer backups. Modifications to the sewer service and/or to the building’s internal plumbing system can help reduce the risk of another sewer backup when done properly.

It is important to note that property owners are responsible for costs and expenses incident to the installation, connection, disconnection, repair or renewal of building sewers per Section § 253 of the City Code. Property owners are also responsible for making every effort to ensure their sewer service and plumbing system is functioning and also protected from backups.

The City of Watertown maintains a list of licensed Master Plumbers, who are familiar with the City’s sewer system, and are authorized to perform work on plumbing systems associated with sewer and plumbing permits, should you decide to modify your system.Some options to consider include installation of sewer back flow prevention devices such as a back flow valve, sewer gate valve, and floor drain valve.

The plumbing of every building is different, as is the best solution, so careful consideration should be taken to determine what type of device(s) is (are) most appropriate, in consultation with a licensed professional. While backflow prevention devices can reduce the risk of sewer backups, they do require continued maintenance, and should only be installed when necessary.

Property owners who experience a sewer backup or flooding emergency should contact 911 for immediate assistance, especially during a storm event. The City of Watertown Fire Department and Department of Public Works can also be contacted during non-storm events, and will do their best to assist property owners experiencing flooding and sewer backups.

For more information on sewer backup prevention, to report a prior sewer backup event, and to obtain a sewer and/or plumbing permit prior to making modifications to their building’s plumbing system, please contact the City of Watertown Department of Engineering.

Contact List
Flooded Basement and Sewer Backup Emergencies:
Primary Contact 911
Fire Department (315) 785-7800
Department of Public Works (315) 785-7842
Report a Sewer Backup Event or to get information on Sewer Backup Prevention:
Department of Engineering (315) 785-7740
Obtain Sewer and/or Plumbing Permits:
Bureau of Code Enforcement (315) 785-7735 Plumbing Permit - Internal to building
Department of Engineering (315) 785-7740 Sewer Permit - External to building

245 Washington Street
Watertown, New York 13601

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