By Kevin Kelley
Fairview Park City Council unanimously gave its approval June 2 to a $150,000 diagnostic program to identify the cause of flooded basements.
The program consists of dye testing to check if a home’s downspouts are improperly connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system. During heavy storms, the sanitary sewers can become overwhelmed with rainwater that should not be in those pipes. When that happens, water will take the path of least resistance, namely any area higher than the pipes, which in many cases is homeowners’ basements.
A discontinued construction practice was to connect storm downspouts to the sanitary sewer system. The thinking was that the sanitary sewers would benefit from being flushed out by the rain. Instead, heavy storms cause the sanitary sewers to become overloaded by rainwater, thus causing basements to flood.
The goal of the dye testing program is to determine why a basement floods and identify remedies. Solutions could include disconnecting downspouts from the sanitary system, repairs of lateral pipes or installation of a sump pump, said Michael Mackay, whose company provides engineering services for the city.
Of the $150,000 earmarked for the project, $43,000 will go to Mackay’s company for engineering services, with the rest going to a yet to be determined contractor to perform the dye testing. The $150,000 will come from funds previously budgeted for sewer work.
Council approved two ordinances required for the program without the customary three readings so the testing could begin as soon as possible.
The dye testing will be initially performed at 65 residences known to have flooded following the May 12 storm that caused problems across the Westshore. The majority of those homes are located in or near Ward 5, whose boundaries once corresponded with the former suburb of Parkview Village, which was annexed by the city in 1967.
In an effort to combat basement flooding, some large cities require dye testing when a house is sold. Service Director Rob Berner told West Life that such point-of-sale dye testing sounds good but drives down home values.
“Realtors hate it,” Berner said.
Mandatory point-of-sale dye testing also creates additional red tape when dealing with foreclosures, Berner said, and requires the government to provide a service already offered by the private sector.
At a May 19 council meeting, Mayor Eileen Patton pledged to continue the city’s efforts to fight the flooding problem. Her administration’s efforts to keep storm water out of the sanitary sewers has prevented basement flooding in other sections of the city, she said.
CLARIFICATION: At the June 2 council meeting, the mayor said the dye testing program would cost more than $15,000. This figure was not an approximation of the cost but a reference to the dollar amount at which City Council must approve expenditures via ordinance. As mentioned, the program will cost $150,000.