Greenwood, Ind. -- Officials with the City of Greenwood are launching a public awareness campaign, asking homeowners to check their homes for improper and illegal sewer connections.
“See if you have a sump pump attached to your home,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers. “And if you do have a sump pump, is it actually flowing out into the yard, or has it been plumbed into the sanitary sewer system?”
Officials estimate as many as 10,000 of Greenwood’s 22,000 homes may have sump pumps and downspouts connected to the city’s sanitary sewer lines. But most of those homeowners may not even be aware of it.
“You know I go buy a house, it’s got a sump pump, okay fine,” Myers said. “I don’t think about it and I don’t realize the fact that it’s hooked into my sewer and that it’s illegal.”
Myers said most homes built in the 1980's and later are probably hooked up properly. But many home builders in the 70's and earlier connected sump pumps and downspouts to the sanitary sewer system. As much as 7,000 gallons can flow from a single home during a heavy rain event, Myers said. Multiply that by the estimated 10,000 homes, and the sanitary sewer lines often receive more water than they can handle during heavy rain.
“That’s an extraordinary, large amount of water, clean water that’s being put into our sanitary system and eventually being processed through the plants,” Myers said.
“It’s uncontaminated clean groundwater that doesn’t need to be treated,” said Greenwood Stormwater Superintendent Christopher Jones. “It just needs to be discharged into the yard and into the soil.”
Aside from contributing to sewer backups in basements and bathrooms, the improper hookups also flush money down the drain by forcing the city to treat more water than it needs to.
“We can say that on an annual basis, right now, we believe we’re spending in excess of 1.5 million dollars in processing clean water, which we should not be doing,” Myers said.
Greenwood residents can expect to see “Find it, Fix it” flyers mailed to them with their sewer bills. The flyers provide information on how to check for improper hookups and how to get them fixed. The flyers also provide information on how to contact the city to ask about reasonable pricing for any plumbing work that needs to be done.
“Find it, Fix it” is a voluntary program because the effort is so new. For now, homeowners will not face any extra fees if they are not up to code.
“We’re trying to take care of all of those things now so that we can relieve the system and make it better for everybody,” Myers said.