Purchasing a home is a big decision and one of the largest financial investments you’ll likely ever make. Going into the home buying process with your eyes open and armed with plenty of knowledge can help make the process a little less stressful. If you are thinking about a home within the Rochester, NY city limits there are some things to know about the city’s sewage and wastewater systems. This information can help you choose a home that’s equipped to function properly in the event of storm or sewage overflow.
The drainage system in a city or town is designed to capture and divert rain and waste water away from streets and homes via underground pipes. Rain and snow melt are captured through the gutters and downspouts on a home and also in the catch basins you see in the street. These are called storm drains or a storm sewer. Sanitary drains or sewers are pipes that carry waste from toilets, showers, sinks, and bathtubs. There are generally two types of sewers, a combined system and a separated system.
The sewer system in the City of Rochester is called a combined sewer system. What this means is that both the storm drains and the sanitary drains flow together in the same pipe to a wastewater treatment facility where the water is treated then pumped back out into Lake Ontario.
There are other towns in the Rochester area- Brighton, Penfield and Webster to name a few- that operate on a dual sewer system. In this system, the storm drains and the sewer drains are separate. Water from the storm drains is discharged into rivers and creeks like Irondequoit Creek and Black Creek, while the sewage is directed to wastewater treatment facilities then pumped back into Lake Ontario once treated.
Combined sewage systems are less than ideal when our region experiences heavy rains and flooding because the storm water can overwhelm the sewers. When that happens, sewage could potentially backup into your home via open floor drains or basement shower drains, toilets, bathtubs or sinks. Another way sewage can back up is tree roots growing in the lines. The roots virtually clog the flow of waste out of the home. Sanitary wipes are the newest culprit. The use of sanitary wipes has increased tenfold in the last few years. Wipes don’t break down like toilet tissue and snag easily on cracks or roots in the line creating an obstacle where other waste can get caught and eventually become a nasty clog.
Keep in mind that the sewer line running from the main sewer to a home, known as the lateral line, is the home owner’s responsibility. If there are obstructions in that lateral section of sewer line, the home may be at risk for a backup that could flood the basement with toxic sewage, exposing living spaces to the viruses and bacteria present in fecal matter. Cleanup costs from these types of backups are generally not covered by your homeowner’s insurance, so unless you’ve purchased a special policy rider, you will be footing the bill for expensive repair and clean up. Always ask the realtor if the home is subject to flooding and check carefully for signs of flood in the basement such as water lines on the walls, or silt and sand on the floors.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent sewage flooding. When house hunting it’s a good idea to ask if a home is protected by anti-flood measures such as capped open drains, check valves or backwater valves that only allow the water to flow one way, and backflow preventers for potable water fixtures. In addition to your regular home inspection, have Pride Plumbing of Rochester perform a video inspection to look for roots, breaks or separation in the piping. At the very least, we recommend General Wire brand flood guards be installed. These flood guards are designed to allow water to flow out of your basement, but any water coming back in through the pipe is stopped by a safety ball which floats up and essentially plugs the drain opening. We would be happy to come out and provide an up-front estimate for a flow guard installation or any other plumbing service you may need.
It’s also a good idea to check out the City of Rochester’s web page on basement sewage information. Knowledge is power so arm yourself with as much information as you can, and know that we are always here to help! Pride Plumbing of Rochester is happy to answer questions you may have about sewage backup or flood protection not just in Rochester, but in any Monroe or Ontario county neighborhood. We service Webster, Brighton, Penfield, Mendon, Victor, Honeoye Falls, Fairport and every community in between. Our technicians are the best in the city. Check out our Google reviews or visit our Facebook page, then give us a call at 585-272-7272.