Sanitary sewer connection inspection program

The Town of Whiteland Wastewater Department is currently undertaking a multi-year system-wide inspection of connections to the Town’s sanitary sewer lines. The purpose of this inspection program is to reduce the amount of clear water entering the sewer mains via improper connections, and ultimately flowing into the wastewater treatment plant. We have created a brochure outlining these purposes and the program. By removing these connections, the operating and maintenance costs for the sewer system can be reduced, lowering sewer bills to customers over time.

What is clear water?

Clear water is water that is not contaminated with waste that requires treatment at the wastewater plant. Typically, clear water comes from rain runoff and groundwater. Importantly, clear water can naturally re-enter the environment without adverse effects—either by soaking into the ground or flowing to a creek or river.

Why is clear water bad?

Clear water belongs in creeks and ponds, in groundwater, or in storm sewers; not in sanitary sewers. Based on research of flows over the past several years, it appears that there is too much clear water getting into Whiteland’s sanitary sewers. Once it is in the sanitary system, it must be transported and treated as wastewater—which results in increased costs to every customer due to the higher amount of water being treated. If we are to be successful in eliminating sewer backups, waste overflows to streams, and to prevent unnecessary treatment plant expansions, clear water must be kept from the sanitary sewers.

However, before we can keep the water out, we must find where it is getting in. There are two main ways clear waters enter the sanitary system: infiltration through sewer joints and broken pipes, and inflow from improper connections. Wikipedia has a good summary about infiltration and inflow. The Wastewater Department already has an ongoing program to identify and repair sources of infiltration, while this inspection program aims to reduce inflow. 

What is an improper connection?

As defined by the Wastewater Department, an improper connection is a connection that permits extraneous clear water to enter the sanitary sewer system. That extraneous water should either be going to the storm sewer or allowed to soak into the ground, without entering the sanitary sewer

Improperly connected drain lines

Improperly connected drain lines

What are types of improper connections?

Improper connections include connections of downspouts, sump pumps, footing tiles, drains from window wells, and drains from driveways to the sanitary sewer line. It also includes open or broken sewer cleanouts that allow water to flow into the sanitary sewer.

Why is it important to remove improper connections?

It is expected that removal of improper connections will significantly reduce the inflow of extraneous clear water to the sanitary sewer system. As a result, the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant is greatly increased, allowing for proper treatment of waste even during heavy rains, and the possibility of basement flooding due to surcharged sanitary sewers is reduced.

How much water do improper connections really add to the sanitary sewer system?

As an example, an 8” diameter sanitary sewer can handle domestic wastewater flow from about 465 homes. However, just twelve sump pumps operating at full capacity can overload that 8” sanitary sewer. One sump pump can pump over 5,000 gallons per day, the equivalent of the average daily flow from 20 homes.

Where should clear water be directed?

The Town’s subdivision construction standards for the past decade or more have called for water from sump pumps, area drains, etc. to be directed to storm sewers or to above ground drainage ditches as shown in the accompanying diagram. Buildings not constructed to these standards may need to be retrofitted to properly discharge clear water.

Properly connected lines

Properly connected lines

How does the Town identify improper connections?

This is where homeowners’ help and cooperation are needed. The Wastewater Department will be inspecting approximately 1700 buildings throughout town. The survey crew will need to inspect the yard and basement (or crawlspace) to observe the building drainage facilities. 

All inspection team members are utility employees and display proper Town of Whiteland identification. While the police department is aware of this program, please call them only if you have a serious concern about the person at your door. If you have any questions about the identity of inspection team people, please call (317) 535-5531.

If I have an improper connection, how do I correct it?

If an improper connection is identified in a home, the owner will be notified and advised as to the type of improper connection. For some types, like a broken cleanout or gutter downspout drains, the homeowner may be able to fix without any special expertise. For others, like sump pump and tile drain connections, it is suggested that a licensed plumber be consulted to determine the most appropriate method of removing the connection.

After fixing an improper connection, the Wastewater Department will need to inspect the fix to ensure it removes the clear water from the sanitary sewer system. If an improper connection remains unrepaired, a customer may be subject to additional utility bill charge. 

Is Whiteland the only place doing this?

Many communities and private sewer providers throughout the country have implemented similar programs in order to meet federal and state environmental regulations. Whiteland is performing these inspections now due to growing concerns about the amount of clear water inflow into the sanitary sewer system and its effect on the environment and wastewater operating costs. 

Program implementation 

A similar inflow reduction program was performed in 1999; however, due to the limited scope and number of inspections, it was only moderately successful in reducing inflow at the time. In late 2013, the Town Council gave a directive to begin this 100% coverage initiative, and over the past months, a strategy was formed and supporting materials were developed to implement this program.

Through examination of peak flows, the Wastewater Department found that the Oakville and Park Forest neighborhoods are the most likely to have these improper connections, while the still-new Millstone subdivision was the least likely. So, in developing the program, the following table was created to prioritize the neighborhoods for inspections.

Year 1 (2014-15)   Year 2   Year 3   Year 4  
Oakville 202 Springhill/Springhill South 280 West of 31 272 East of 31 269
Park Forest 244 Chad Lo 146 Brunnemer Ridge 60 Millstone 36
        Meadow Creek 145 Grassy Crk Estates 50
Total per year 446   426   477   355

This is a rough timeline and will vary depending on the number of inspections achieved per year. Residents of each neighborhood will receive a notification and request for scheduling when inspections will be done in their area.

Inspection process

Scheduling

An inspection appointment can be made by emailing rsnyder@nulltownofwhiteland.com or by calling (317) 535-7627. Inspections are available throughout the week at various times to provide flexibility with hectic schedules.

The inspection

Each inspection will consist of investigating the downspouts, sewer cleanout, and sump pump (if any) for improper connection to the sanitary sewer line. The total time taken for the inspection will vary, but could be as short as 5 minutes for a home without a sump pump. Inspections of sump pumps in tight crawlspaces may take significantly longer. If a possible improper connection is identified, confirmation testing may be necessary, adding time to the inspection or necessitating another visit later.

After inspection

If no improper connection is found, then no further action is necessary. If an improper connection is found, the inspector will let the owner know what steps to take to address the issue and will schedule a follow-up inspection to allow time to fix the problem(s).

Surcharge fee

It is very important to remove any improper connections. If after re-inspection the improper connection is not corrected, the Town Code mandates that a $20 surcharge will be added to each monthly sewer bill for the property to compensate for the treatment of the extraneous clear water. This $20 monthly surcharge will also apply if an inspection is refused. This surcharge was adopted in 1986, but this is the first time an inflow inspection program has been fully implemented.

Thank you

The Wastewater Department understands that scheduling appointments and allowing access for inspections is inconvenient, but they request that homeowners please work with them to perform these inspections in the most timely and efficient manner possible. 

Again, if you have received a notification letter to schedule an appointment, please call Superintendent Rusty Snyder at (317) 535-7627 or rsnyder@nulltownofwhiteland.com. Unfortunately, we cannot set up appointments online (yet). 

Thank you for your assistance in reducing the inflow and costs to the sanitary sewer system. It is sincerely appreciated.

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Town of Whiteland
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Regular office and utility hours are Monday – Friday
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549 Main Street, Whiteland, IN 46184
(317) 535-5531

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(317) 530-0222

 

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