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updated: 6/19/2013 5:33 PM

Naperville increases funding to prevent sewer backups

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Naperville has allocated additional funds to reimburse residents for work aimed at preventing sewer backups in the wake of April flooding.

But some say the problem of overflowing sewers needs a broader solution.

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The city council on Tuesday approved an extra $795,000 for a backflow prevention program that refunds 75 percent of what residents spend on installing a system to stop sewage from spilling into their basements. The funding increases the amount available citywide for such improvements this year to $825,000.

Jim Holzapfel, public utilities director for water, said the program allows residents to choose what type of backflow prevention system will work best for their home and then receive payment for three-quarters of the cost. Combined with efforts to line sanitary sewer pipes so groundwater does not seep in, he said the program should help prevent some of the 157 sanitary sewer backups reported because of the April storm.

"Our hope is as many people that need to take advantage of the program will," Holzapfel said.

Many homes that reported sewer backups are in the East Highlands, West Highlands, Naperville Heights or Cress Creek neighborhoods and have a history of such problems occurring over time.

Another measure approved Tuesday aims to improve infrastructure in the Cress Creek area by starting a $2.4 million sewer lining project there this year instead of next.

But Cress Creek residents Dale Bryson and Rob Neufelder, both of whom said they experienced sewer backups in April and in past years, asked the council to increase capacity in their area north of Ogden Avenue between Mill Street and McDowell Grove Forest Preserve.

"The key is this is an avoidable problem, but the city has to solve it. The homeowners can't solve it," Bryson said. "Until you get more capacity, we're going to continue to have more backups."

Neither he nor Neufelder have used the city's backflow prevention refund program, although 253 other homeowners have since it first was offered in 1981, according to a memo from department of public utilities officials.

"I did not want to solve my problem and send it up the sewer to my neighbors," Bryson said.

Holzapfel said pressure in the sewer lines will increase as more residents install backflow prevention systems in their homes, but encouraging the improvements at private homes and lining sewer pipes are still the city's best courses of action.

"Really the only thing we can do is rehab the system we have to gain back some of the lost capacity," Holzapfel said.

Residents who want to participate in the backflow prevention program will meet with city staff members and solicit proposals from at least three licensed plumbers before choosing a contractor, paying for the work and submitting for reimbursement.

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