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Getting to the bottom of sewage backups

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NORTH ARLINGTON – 

Borough Hall is taking action on two fronts to try and figure out how to stop sewage backups into residents’ basements.

Last week, borough engineer Tom Lemanowicz began a camera inspection of sanitary sewers on Geraldine and Carrie Roads on the borough’s western edge bordering the meadows.

At the same time, the borough wants residents in that area to ‘fess up if they’ve put in basement sump pumps attached to the sanitary system without having secured local permits from the building department.

Running a camera through the sewers should help reveal how well the pipes are holding up and to what extent ground and rain water are infiltrating the sanitary system, Lemanowicz said.

The engineer suspects that water infiltration from leaky manhole covers, cracked pipes, sump pumps and roof drains from residents’ homes is the reason for sewage being forced into basements in heavy storms.

One option that may be explored to remedy the problem is creating a water collection system for storm water runoff with the help of state and federal funding, suggested borough spokesman Thom Ammirato.

Having reviewed local sewer maps, Lemanowicz said that the developer of the homes in the western neighborhood may have tied drainage systems installed around those homes to the sanitary sewer line.

It is the engineer’s judgment that sewage pumps at the bottom of the hill near Geraldine Road have enough capacity to handle the sanitary flow from the homes in the area; therefore, he believes that sump pumps and roof leaders tied to the sanitary system over the years have increased water flow beyond the ability of the sewage pumps to process it.

To determine how many residents have those sump pumps and roof drains linked to the sanitary system, Mayor Peter Massa has delegated Councilman Tom Zammatore and three resident volunteers to go door-to-door in the neighborhood to ask residents if they improperly hooked up drainage to the sewer pipe.

“We’re not looking to punish anyone who has a sump pump in their basement,” Massa said, “but we do want to inform residents that part of the problem with sewage backups is likely due to illegal sump pumps.”

Lemanowicz said that once the data is collected from the cameras, he’ll be able to come up with the best strategy to remedy the backups.

In another public works-related matter, the borough governing body voted July 17 to contract with Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne for tree trimming and removal.

Downes was low bidder on a menu of tree services for which the borough solicited perunit prices in hopes of better controlling tree service costs which, according to Council President and Finance Chairman Al Granell, climbed from $200,000 in 2012 to $300,000 last year.

“We need to manage those costs and this bid award will help give us some predictability on the cost of tree management,” Granell said.

Putting a lid on those expenses is becoming particularly critical now that the borough is reaching the point where many of its larger street trees – like sycamores – are nearing the end of their life expectancy, noted Ammirato.

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