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Article posted: 5/14/2013 5:20 PM

Geneva reminds residents: Aid available to install overhead sewers

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In the wake of the April 17 showers that left some people with flooded basements, the Geneva public works department is reminding homeowners of one solution: Installing overhead sewers.

Since 2009, the city has offered to pay for half the costs, up to $3,000, for eligible projects, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Bob Van Gyseghem told the city council Monday night.

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Instead of having all plumbing fixtures, including those in the basement, draining to a pipe under the basement floor, owners can put a wastewater pipe near the basement ceiling. Wastewater from basement fixtures such as utility sinks, toilets and washing machines would flow in a pit and be pumped up to that pipe, which would exit the house higher than in the typical set up.

Should the city's sanitary sewers back up, such as when excess rainwater infiltrates, it is much less likely sewage would back up into the basement through floor drains, sinks and toilets, Van Gyseghem said.

The city's website, geneva.il.us, has drawings that explain this, as well as the application for the program, under the Public Works section.

Interested parties would first receive a site inspection to make sure there aren't any improper connections, such as a sump pump draining into the sanitary sewer system. The city inspector may also be able to advise whether an overhead sewer would help, or if something else is causing a sewer backup, such as a clogged sewer line.

Alderman Ron Singer asked what happens during an electrical outage, if the ejector pump can't work.

"You just have to be wise and not be using your basement sewer at that time," Van Gyseghem said.

He said six households have used the program since 2009, and none have reported having any problems.

Only one spent more than $6,000 on their project.

Alderman Mike Bruno suggested the city also send out warnings during heavy storms, via its email and Twitter feeds, that residents be "judicious in the use of drains."

Alderman Dean Kilburg wondered if installing overhead sewers could cause problems for neighbors. If three or four households on a block did it, he asked, would it force water into basements that didn't previously have a problem?

Van Gyseghem said he didn't know.

The city has budgeted $6,000 a year for the grants, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Batavia, North Aurora and St. Charles also have overhead sewer grant programs.

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