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Protect Our Sewer

Protect our Sewer Initiative

Sanitary or Storm Sewer?
In the City of Wakefield, we have two separate systems, one for sanitary sewer and one for storm sewers.

Sanitary sewer pipes collect wastewater from toilets, sinks, bathtubs, showers, washing machines, etc from inside your home or business. These “sewer pipes” transport the wastewater to the city’s wastewater treatment plant where it is treated before it can be discharged to the Planter Creek.

Catch basins or storm sewers collect our city’s clear water from streets, yards, parking lots and discharges it directly to our nearby creeks. No treatment needed!

What is Clear Water?
Clear Water is rain water, ground water or snow melt.

What is a Clear Water Connections?
Clear Water connections to our sanitary sewers exist throughout our system. Many homeowners or business owners are not even aware they have clear water connections from their homes and businesses to the city’s sanitary sewer.
Examples of clear water connections:

1. Downspouts – Downspouts carry water from the top of the house or building to the ground and protect your roof from damage. An average house roof sheds about 650 to 1000 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. Downspouts should spill the water out on the ground at least 3 feet away from the building.

2. Sump Pumps – Sump pumps protect your basement from groundwater especially during storms. A sump pump is a submersible pump that sits inside of the sump pit and is at the heart of the sump drainage system. There are three main components comprise a sump pump drain system – the sump pump, the sump pit, and the sump discharge pipe. As the water levels rises the sump pit will be the first to fill with water as it is connected to the weeping tile system that usually runs the perimeter of the home. As the groundwater level rises the sump pit will fill with water, if you are using an automatic pump (virtually everyone is these days) the sump pump will be activated and begin to pump the water outside of your property through the discharge pipe – away from your basements foundation. Sump pumps should discharge out of your house and into a yard or have a connection directly to the storm sewers. A sump pump can contribute approximately 5,000 gallons of water a day per home even more in rainfall.

Why is Clear Water a Problem?

The discharge of clear water from sump pumps and downspouts, especially during periods of rain and heavy snowmelt, into our sanitary sewer system creates excessive flows that may exceed the design capacity of the entire sanitary sewer system. For example: a typical home contributes approximately 200 gallons of wastewater flow per day. One sump pump can pump up to 5000 gallons per day or 25 times the average wastewater flow per home. Add downspouts to that and we have some serious volumes of water flowing into our sewer system.

What’s the Issue? It’s Only Water!
If our sanitary sewer system reaches system capacity and it is ultimately overwhelmed, sewers will back-up into your homes. Sewer backups in homes are expensive and are often the responsibility of the homeowner. Most homeowner’s insurances do not cover sewer backups.

There could also be overflow from manholes causing raw sewage to be released into your neighborhood and environment.
Another reason to keep clear water out of our sanitary sewer system is cost. The clear water that reaches our wastewater treatment plant is treated unnecessarily. When clear water is discharged directly into our sanitary sewer system, it increases the cost of treatment due to greater volumes of sewage to process at our wastewater treatment plant. The cost of treatment is than passed onto you, the customer!

What Can You Do?
First, make sure your residence or business is in compliance with the City’s Ordinance 52.50.

It is a violation of the City’s Ordinance 52.50 to have clear water connections directly or indirectly connected to the City’s sanitary sewer. Persons could be subject to penalties and damage recovery if found liable due to clear water connections per the City’s Ordinance 52.50.

The first step to being compliant is to check your property for improper clear water connections. Next disconnect any clear water connections to the sanitary sewer that you find, making sure you have positive drainage away from your home.

If you have questions regarding clear water, improper connections and how to correct the connections, please contact the City of Wakefield at 906.229.5131.

Common questions

What is a sanitary sewer?
A sanitary sewer is a pipe located in the City Right-of-Way that is designed solely to transport wastewater from sanitary fixtures in your house or place of business to the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility. Sanitary sewers in your neighborhood are owned by the City of Wakefield.

What is a storm sewer?
A storm sewer is a pipe located in the City Right-of-Way that is designed to carry storm-related water runoff. Storm sewers usually are much larger than sanitary sewers because they are designed to carry much more copious amounts of flow. Storm sewers are owned, operated and maintained by the City of Wakefield.

What is an illegal connection?
An illegal connection is a connection that permits extraneous storm-related water (water from sources other than sanitary fixtures) to enter the sanitary sewer system. The extraneous storm-related water is water that should be going to the storm sewer or allowed to soak into the ground without entering the sanitary sewer.

What are the different types of illegal connections?
Illegal connections include connections of roof downspouts/drains, sump pumps, footing/foundation drains, and basement drains to the house’s sanitary sewer lines. Also, defective house sanitary sewer lines that allow extraneous water to enter the sanitary sewers are also illegal connections.
Where should storm drainage from downspouts, sump pump and/or other drain appurtenance be directed if it cannot be discharged to the sanitary sewer?
Construction standards generally call for water from the sump pump, area drains, and the like, to be diverted to the storm sewers, front or back yards or above ground drainage ditches.

Why is it important for everyone to remove illegal connections?
Removal of illegal connections will significantly reduce the flow of extraneous storm-related water in the sanitary sewer system. This stormwater ends up at the wastewater treatment plant and is treated along with the sanitary flow. If the City and its residents can reduce the amount of stormwater in the treatment plant, the costs of operating the plant can be significantly reduced.

How can surcharged sanitary sewers cause basement flooding?
A surcharged sewer flows at a level higher than the “normal” level. If the home has sanitary fixtures or floor drains at an elevation below the surcharge level, basement flooding can occur. The sanitary sewers have been designed to transfer sanitary waste only. Extraneous stormwater flows added to the normal sanitary flow can exceed the capacity of the sanitary sewer resulting in a situation where the sanitary sewer is “surcharged.” Surcharging occurs when the amount of flow trying to get through a pipe exceeds the maximum capacity of the pipe thus builds up pressure in the pipe. When pressure builds up it seeks to relieve itself through any means possible, one of which is by backing up private sanitary services and filling basements and crawlspaces. Reducing the extraneous flow will reduce the surcharging and sewer back-ups.

Do illegal connections really contribute large amounts of extraneous water to the sanitary sewer system?
Yes. For example, a typical eight-inch sanitary sewer can handle domestic sewage from up to 225 homes; however, it takes only five sump pumps operating at full capacity to overload an eight-inch sanitary sewer.

How does the City of Wakefield identify illegal connections?
The City of Wakefield hired an engineering firm to conduct sewer-televising, smoke and dye testing of the sewers and house lines and make house inspections.
The following are possible solutions:
The sump pipe could be run overland to a ditch or swale, which drains to another location. Also, a long flexible tube that can be moved around the yard to avoid discharge in only one portion of the yard could be used.
The sump pump can be run underground through a 4” or 6” diameter perforated PVC pipe, with holes at the bottom and backfilled with washed gravel. An overflow tube should be placed at the opposite end to allow the water to escape if the volume of the pipe is exceeded. This pipe tube is located at a convenient area of the yard such as a garden. Another option could be to run it to a dry well.
When near a storm sewer, it may be possible to route the sump pump to a City storm drain via a 4” or 6” pipe with a curb relief “bubbler” and tie into the back of an inlet or the crown of the mainline pipe by way of a core hole. No breaking out of the concrete pipe is allowed. All taps are to be made by a qualified licensed contractor. A permit will be required with proper inspections made by the Department of Public Works.
Note – Caution must always be taken to prevent freezing in pipes.

I’ve never had basement flooding due to surcharge sewer. Why should I remove my illegal connections?
You may not have basement flooding due to surcharged sewers. However, if you’re plumbing pumps or drains storm-related water into the sanitary sewer, it may well be the cause of flooding in your neighbor’s basement.

Is the requirement to remove illegal connections unique to the City of Wakefield?
No. In response to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s regulations, local governments have adopted ordinances or codes prohibiting the intrusion of extraneous storm-related water into sanitary sewers.

Your help in eliminating unauthorized connections is needed. If you have any questions, or would like to review your connection, or discuss sewer use laws, call the City of Wakefield (906) 229-5131 Monday – Friday between 8:00 A.M. and 4:30 P.M.