Greenwood residents can expect to receive fliers and brochures in the coming weeks, asking them to check their downspouts and sump pump systems.
The city estimates that 10,000 of the 25,000 homes — or two in every five — connected to the sewer system are hooked up improperly, and now officials want to find those residents and get them to make a change.
The “Find It Fix It” campaign is meant to educate residents and make them aware of the problems caused by downspouts and sump pumps improperly connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system. With the issue being so widespread, officials are leaving it up to residents to identify whether they have an improper connection, and then fix it.
Many of the residents who are improperly draining into the city’s sanitary sewer system are unaware of the connection, how it adds costs for the city to treat the excess water and the risks they face as a homeowner because of it, Mayor Mark Myers said.
When downspouts are connected to the city’s sanitary sewer system, stormwater enters the wastewater system meant to carry water from toilets, bathtubs showers and sinks. The city is treating the excess water, which costs more money, Myers said.
The excess water can also cause wastewater to back up into homes, streets and creeks, stormwater superintendent Chris Jones said.
Sewer lines carrying wastewater from a home can only hold so much at a time. During a heavy rain, if stormwater gets into the line, sewage can back up into the basement of a home, officials said.
Sewage spills are also a concern when sewer lines are cracked, which can happen when too much water gets in, Jones said. When the sanitary sewer system has lines with leaks and cracks, and backs up, the water will flow out of those areas, spilling raw sewage onto city streets and into creeks, Jones said.
The city is just starting work to find and fix improper connections, so right now, residents won’t face a penalty or fines, officials said.
Instead, they want to make residents aware of why the issue is a problem, and how to know if their home needs a fix. For example, the pamphlets the city will send with sanitation bills will show diagrams of a correct and improper connection. Next month, the city is hosting a meeting with contractors, plumbers and real estate agencies. In addition to pamphlets and brochures, the city also wants to use social media and upcoming city festivals, such as WAMMfest and Rock The Clock, to spread awareness.
“This is a problem that has always needed to be fixed. We know that our sanitary sewer system has a lot of issues between both stormwater and sanitary systems, and we’re taking a very strong stand to fix it,” Myers said.