Discussion at a recent council meeting left residents wondering if the city’s sewer system was working properly.



Some residents have experienced sewer backups in their homes in the past, leading to not only a mess, but also cleanup bills.


Discussion at a recent council meeting left residents wondering if the city’s sewer system was working properly.

Some residents have experienced sewer backups in their homes in the past, leading to not only a mess, but also cleanup bills.

“I want to make it clear that when you hear a sewer backs up, that doesn’t mean that every time it’s in the main,” said Superintendent of Public Works Josh Cooper at a recent public works committee meeting.

He said he checked how many backups were reported from September through December, and only four out of 39 were from a clog in the main. The remaining issues stemmed from a problem in the homeowner’s line.

Public Works Committee Chairman Denny Gould said sometimes the city has the same problem homeowners do: tree roots grow into the sewer main and create places where clogs could occur.

In search of water, roots can grow into the small cracks in the clay tile sewer lines.

Those roots then wreak havoc in the system, either in the homeowner’s sewer line heading to the main or in the main itself.

“A?big wad of toilet paper could catch on a bunch of roots,” said Cooper.

While toilet paper is expected to be found in the city’s sewer system, other things are not.

City workers have found feminine products, which expand to three to four times their size, a?T-shirt and even a bed sheet causing problems.

Public Works has a regular program to spot-check for problems and to check the areas where they have had problems in the past.

Just because they check them, however, does not mean that it will catch all possible problems as the lines change day to day, Cooper said.

Some areas seem to have more problems than others as well.

“It could be pipes settling, more trees or there are more users,” said Cooper.

He also has experienced a back up in his line at home, as well as his neighbors on either side of him. All three were in the home’s lines, which he theorizes has to do with the age of the home and the sewer lines.

“Every call is different. Every backup is different,” said Cooper.

Some residents, he said, do not call the city and call a private company to check out their line.

“Why wouldn’t we think about putting in a flapper valve and getting rid of this??We’ve done it in the past,” asked Mayor Troy Childers Sr.

He also asked City Engineer Ken Coulter if installing one on a house having problems would then push the problem to the next house.

“You’d have to look at each case, but it should not, generally; that should not cause the next door house to be worse,” said Coulter.

The back-flow preventer valve for a 4-inch connection, which is a typical home connection, costs about $76, Cooper told the committee.

The homeowner also would have a cost to dig up their yard to install the check valve.

“The only issue is for us, personally, physically, doing it. You have to be a licensed plumber,” said Cooper about working on private property.

Office Manager Denise Passage said that in talking to the city’s insurance company on insurance claims for city sewer backups, she suggested to them to offer the installation of a check valve.

“If it’s a repeated claim, they would be money ahead to do this or to offer it. The liability end is it should be up to the homeowner to do it,” Passage said, citing work done on private property, choosing a company to do the work, etc.

New homes are required to have the sewer line a minimum of 3 feet lower than the home, which assists in combating these types of problems. In older homes, the line is at the same level, leading to why some residents have backups in their basements.