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Why is this important?
The City of Austin is continuing its mandatory sump pump inspection program. To complete the program the City is divided in to six areas: Northeast, Southeast, Northwest (divided into two areas) and Southwest (divided into two areas). In 2021 Southwest Austin — generally south of Oakland Avenue West and southwest of Turtle Creek — will be inspected. In past years, other properties in the Southeast and inner Southwest were completed, and all other areas of Austin will be inspected in the following years. Refer to the inspection map.
Like many cities in Minnesota, Austin faces a challenge with its sanitary sewer collection system. During significant rainfall events the system is overloaded by excess ground water and rain water (clear water). When it rains, flows can jump up to eight times the normal rate. Overloaded sewers lead to basement backups, and in extreme cases, require bypassing flow directly to the river. This causes damage to homes, personal property, health concerns and environmental issues.
Excess clear water enters the system from cracks in sewer mains and manholes, and from private sources such as sump pumps, seepage collection systems, defective service laterals, and roof drains. The City has spent millions of dollars fixing sewer mains and manholes and increasing the capacity of trunk sewer mains. But that isn't the whole solution. National studies have shown that the distribution of public/private clear water sources is approximately 50/50. Removing private sources of clear water is essential to solving the problem.
A major source of private clear water in the sanitary sewer system is sump pumps. A sump pump removes ground water from around a home’s foundation. The proper place for a sump pump to discharge is to the exterior of the home or storm sub-drain if available. The improper place for it to go are into a floor drain or tub sink, which connect to the sanitary sewer. A single sump pump discharges between 20 - 100 gallons per minute (gpm). It only takes a few improperly plumbed sump pumps to overload a neighborhood sewer main that has a typical capacity of 400 gpm.
What should I do?
The City needs your help to remove clear water from the system. Check to make sure your sump pumps, seepage collection systems, and roof drains discharge onto the ground or into a storm sub-drain if available.
Then please schedule an inspection appointment to verify that no clear water connections are present. The City's Chapter 3 of the Municipal Code of Ordinances prohibits clear water connections into the sanitary sewer. The City recently amended the Ordinances to authorize mandatory sump pump inspections to verify that buildings do not have clear water connections, and the application of 'clear water' surcharges onto sewer bills for buildings that have not been inspected and passed.
It’s also the neighborly thing to do to make sure your sump pump isn’t going into the sanitary sewer because your pumpage may end up in someone’s basement as overflow.
What is an inspection?
The City of Austin is starting mandatory sump pump inspections to verify that clear water sump pump connections to the sanitary sewer aren’t present.
To do this, they will need access to your property and basement to observe exterior grading, roof drains, sump pit/pump, and seepage collection system if present. A typical inspection is completed in under 15 minutes.
For fairness to residents, all buildings with a sewer account will be inspected, regardless of whether a basement or sump pump is present.
There will be no fees for these inspections.
Property owners have the option to hire a private plumber to complete their inspection, in which case the plumber's fees would be at property owner's expense.
What’s the next step?
The Southwest area will be separated into approximately three equal sectors, designated by color (red, yellow, and green), to stagger inspection times throughout 2021. You will be notified by mail to schedule an inspection.
Check out the links below for FAQs, proper sump pump installation diagrams, program updates and more!