Sewage Backup; Dealing with backed up sewers and your basement floor drain backing up and flooding

My wife and I detected a horrible odor in our home the other day upon returning home from work after a hard rain.  A sewage backup in the line on the street had occurred when the aging sewer system that serves our community became blocked with something carried into it during the storm.

A trip downstairs revealed the worst; a flooded basement.  Raw sewage had backed up into our finished basement through two of the basement drains.  I wish I didn't have to be so graphic, but there were human feces, sanitary napkins, and toilet paper lying on our floors.  The basement floor drain in the laundry room was the main point of entry, and there was evidence that sewage had shot out of it up to four feet in the air!  Fortunately for us, at least the water had subsided by the time we came home, but the three week clean up process of the solids and ruined carpeting left behind by this basement flood was absolutely horrible.  Several neighbors downhill from us reported similar disasters, and some even had standing water in their basements up to three feet deep that had to be pumped out.

backwater valves; sewage backups - these backflow preventers prevent basement drain backing upAfter our sewage backup occurred, we conducted a massive telephone and Internet search to learn what steps can be taken to insure a sewer backup in our home would never happen again; we declared war on our basement drain backing up!  We discovered that there are a lot of products on the market, and some do not work very well.  Fortunately, that search led us to the new, unique, and incredibly well designed mainline backwater valve solution linked to from this page.

Each year in the United States, backed up sewers back causing floods in basements occur nearly 500,000 times when about 50,000 municipal sanitary sewers overflows occur.  This sewage back up situation creates an environment in which potentially deadly pathogens are introduced into the home and conditions are created in which toxic black mold can grow in the basement.

The biggest problems arise in systems that combine storm water and raw sewage into the same pipeline.  During many rain storms, the systems are exposed to more volume than they can handle, and the result is a sewage back up situation that allows sewage to spew out, flooding into basements and other low lying drains.  The desire to broaden local tax bases by building more and more homes connected to already aging sewage systems has also contributed to rapid increases in sanitary sewer back ups, flooded basements and overflows.

The reality that funding to maintain and improve sewer systems has decreased while the demands placed upon these aging sewer systems has increased makes the flooding problem even worse.  Sewage backups endanger the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans and create hefty repair bills for cities and consumers alike (as we personally found out).  While local officials and voters have been treating sewers as an "out of sight, out of mind" problem, the results of backed up sewers are increasingly making themselves known in basements throughout the nation.

The Civil Engineering Research Foundation reports that backed up sewers are increasing at the alarming rate of about three percent each year.  A recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers indicates that the nation's 500,000-plus miles of sewer lines are on average over thirty years old.  Our nations aging sewer systems are overflowing and flooding basements with increasing regularity and introducing unprecedented amounts of pollutants into our homes and buildings.

Studies indicate that over one million Americans become ill each year just from backed up sewer incidents.  Raw sewage contains powerful bacteria like E coli, viruses, intestinal worms and parasites.  Most of those affected suffer stomach cramps and diarrhea, but untreated sewage can also spread horrible diseases such as cholera and hepatitis.  Gastroenteritis and cryptosporidiosis are other parasites contained in sewage and can kill humans when high concentrations are encountered.

The Water Infrastructure Network, a group of water and public-works associations, believes that municipal governments / ratepayers will have to provide up to $12 billion a year for capital improvements in the next two decades to replace aging sewer pipes and to meet EPA guidelines.  Estimates in some regions show sanitary sewer replacement costs could reach up to $15,000 PER HOUSEHOLD.  Due to the high costs involved, this upgrade won't happen quickly.

In the meantime, those connected to sewers prone to back ups are forced to fund repairs out of their own pockets.  And many recommended repairs costing thousands of dollars end up not working.  Many homeowners are advised to replace the pipe leading from their dwelling to the street at a cost of about $75 per foot (an average 50' line is nearly $4,000).  But when the problem is that the sewer line at the street is backing up, the newly replaced line will allow a sewage backup backup just as easily as the old sewer line.  In some sewer back up situations, so much pressure occurs that solid steel manhole covers are popped several feet into the air above a raging fountain of raw sewage.  If any drain in your home is located at a point lower that that manhole, the same raw sewage fountain will occur in your home.

sewage back up flownormal sewer drain flowAt a cost of about $275 US delivered in the US and Canada, this sewer backup prevention device is a bargain.  Our plumber installed the valve in our basement.  He started in the morning and was done before lunch.  Since the valve was installed, we have experienced many similar heavy rains.  Our neighbors have experienced more nasty episodes with sewage flooding their basements (but not for long, they've scheduled to install our valve).  Our basement is as dry as a bone!

Greg W.

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