Watertown recommends backflow systems for some city residents

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 5:40 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - For years an overflow of stormwater on Butterfield Avenue in Watertown has caused basements to flood and cost residents more money on plumbing work.

The city had been helping residents get rid of some of this wastewater for a while, but it’s now asking people to consider a backflow system.

The city of Watertown recently got fined $22,000 by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation for discharging wastewater into wetlands.

The reason for the discharge was to prevent people’s basements from overflowing with wastewater.

The city is recommending folks get a backflow system installed - something that could cost thousands of dollars.

Phil Ritz has lived on Butterfield Avenue his entire life.

“They dig the floor right off completely and then trench it, have to put this curbing in it, yeah pretty expensive,” he said.

He says flooding has always been an issue, but since he got a sump pump, his basement has stayed dry.

Not all of the homes have some sort of backflow system for their wastewater and, if they do, not all of them are automatic or lead directly into the city’s sewer system.

Adam Ruppe does not have an automatic sump pump at his home.

“What I do is that I go down and if water is starting to build up, I’ll turn on a pump by hand,” he said.

What happens if it rains overnight or if Ruppe is not home?

“There was one night a couple of years ago, when I got 15 inches down there and it did damage to my washing machine, my water heater and my dehumidifier,” he said.

Watertown City Manager Ken Mix says the city has already sealed up some sewer manholes to prevent infiltration and inflow of stormwater.

“We’ve been discussing with the town quite a bit of stormwater comes in through the system out in the town of Watertown, out of Washington Street, so we’ll be trying to reduce that,” he said.

Mayor Jeff Smith says as the city is working on some projects to provide a temporary solution, what’s best right now is for people to get a backflow system.