During heavy rainstorms, the sewer pump station that serves the Bogue Avenue and Redfield Parkway area of Batavia can back up and reach the point of potential failure, according to City officials, so last week, about 100 area residents received letters asking them to meet with the City about their sump pumps.
Under City code, sump pumps are not supposed to pump water into the sanitary sewer system and reducing those connections could help avoid a problem at the pump station in the Redfield Parkway area.
"About 100 houses got the letter and even if only half of them had sump pumps (connected to the sanitary system), even if it's only five gallons a minute, that's five gallons times 50 connections, all of the sudden it's 250 or 300 gallons per minute," said Matt Worth, interim city manager. "Add that on top of normal flow downstream to the pump station, it can become overloaded. If there's a mechanical failure, that can cause the system to back up."
And what gets backed up into people's basements, starting with the person who has the lowest basement, is "dirty" water, Worth said.
That's a problem the city would like to avoid.
The letter Redfield and Bogue residents received apparently caused some residents to believe the City was going to force them to disconnect their sump pumps from the sewer system and find some other way of getting rid of water that flows into their basements.
Worth said that isn't the case at all.
"We’re trying not to be draconian about it," Worth said. "The request is for people to call, make an appointment, we’ll come, and have those discussions. We’re trying to offer as low-cost solutions as possible."
The code that prohibits sump pumps from pumping stormwater into the sanitary system has been on the books since at least 1966, Worth said, and it also provides a "grandfather clause" for homes with sump pumps built prior to enactment of the ordinance.
Two things about the clause: The clause isn't effective if pumping the water into the sewer system is determinant to the system; and, if there is no other solution available, then the resident can continue to pump water into the system.
About a dozen residents from the Redfield area attended Monday's City Council meeting and a few spoke to voice their concerns about the letter.
Don Fryling said he thought the City was just trying to dump its problem off on residents.
"Perhaps the city should update the pump station instead of pushing the problem back on the residents," Fryling said.
Jim Owen suggested the City try to secure a grant to pay for a new pump station.
Worth said a new pump station isn't really a solution because the federal and state grants used to help build the wastewater treatment plant prohibit "clean" stormwater from being processed at the plant, so the City can't intentionally take action to ensure stormwater is being mixed in with sewer water.
So far, the City has met with 15 residents and found only four sump had pumps that were pumping water into the sewer system. All four voluntarily agreed to mitigate the condition.
With that information, Council President Eugene Jankowski suggested residents simply talk with the City and figure out what the situation is for themselves.
"To the people who spoke today, I guess, my request to you is meet with Jim (Ficarella) and see if you can help the City and find a mitigation, and if you can’t, then you can’t," Jankowski said. "If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. Some of you can help and assist and there are ways to fix your problem and give the city a break and relieve some of the pressure on that pump station. That will help the rest of your neighbors out as well. Nobody is forcing you to do anything."