Letter Re: Are You Ready for City Sewer Backups?

Mr. Rawles,
Some fellow bloggers and I  discuss  prepping ideas on a discussion forum. One subject that came up (pardon the pun) was sewer problems.
I am in a small town that has a sewer system. We got rid of the septic tanks and pits back in the 1980s. I was young at the time and remember being a curious kid watching the houses being plumbed into the street sewer mains, and some houses had a special valve  (called a back-flow prevention valve, or check valve) installed into the system and others didn’t. I asked the workers why, and they stated that the hilly terrain could cause sewage from one house to back up into a house downhill on the sewer line. The valve was meant to stop the waste from going into the house and instead let it back up until it flowed out of the next uphill man hole cover. (The thinking was: “better in the street than in a house.”) Not all houses had this valve installed. Some if considered high enough above the next uphill man hole cover, were not required to put one in. My concern is the amount of pressure it would take to lift a heavy man hole cover – the waste may instead choose to go to a shower or toilet rather than lift a heavy manhole cover that may be stuck in place.

After talking with the other bloggers, one did in fact confirm just such a case where the sewer pipe filled the vacation house with three feet of sewage. All that mess could be avoided by the installation of a relatively inexpensive back flow valve on the main sewer pipe leaving the house. I installed one in the house I recently moved into, and even though the valve cost less than $50, the additional materials and such made the project cost over a $100.  (I did the work, so having a plumber do it would cost more). It should be a one day job if the digging, cutting, plumbing, and back filling all goes well. And don’t forget to put in a clean out fitting on both sides of the valve, and also put everything in a valve box so that it is easy to get to if maintenance is needed in the future.

I would hope everyone reading this had a retreat off the main sewer pipe, but that can’t be. I would also think this should be very important if the towns sewer system happens to be combined with the storm drain system, which could cause some major flooding during a bad storm. Also, some systems in both flat and hilly terrain have pump stations that rely on electricity in order to get the sewage to the treatment plant. Once they run out of backup power, and if people are still flushing with stream, rain, or swimming pool water, the full brunt of sewage may be heading to a bathroom near you.

Take Care, – Solar Guy