Don’t contaminate your drinking water when it rains

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Many cities use treated water from lakes and streams to provide fresh drinking water to their communities. However, many communities could be unintentionally contaminating their drinking water each time it rains.

Stormwater drains (not sewer systems) help return rainwater to nearby lakes, streams and treatment systems; however, there is risk of pollutants, trash and sediment being carried underground. While these drains keep the public safe from rainwater flooding and potential hydroplaning, keep in mind that stormwater runs into other bodies of water.

Storm drains are for rain – not dumping household products that you wouldn’t otherwise pour down a drain in your home. As a homeowner, you can help prevent dangerous pollutants from entering storm drains.

  • Clean up pet waste. Pet waste left on the ground could wash into the storm drains.
  • Never apply pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides to foliage and plants before it rains. Rain doesn’t help soil absorb chemicals; it washes them away. Also, consider using non-toxic or organic alternatives.
  • If possible, drain pools (even kiddy pools) into the sanitary sewer system where the water can be treated.
  • Dispose of chemicals properly instead of dumping them on the ground or in a storm drain.
  • Chemical spill? Don’t rinse it with the hose. Use absorbent materials like kitty litter, which can be swept and disposed of properly.
  • Take your car to the car wash so soap doesn’t leak into the storm drains. Many car washes recycle their water, so you’ll be conserving water, too. If you must wash your car at home, consider using biodegradable soap.

For more information about storm water pollution, visit the EPA website.

Call before you dig

Shovel in Dirt

Have you ever started to shovel in your yard and hit something hard? While you might think it’s just a rock or clay – it could be your water, sewer or gas line and accidentally puncturing it could be costly and potentially dangerous. While most utility and service lines are buried several feet beneath the ground’s surface, some areas have very shallow lines, which increase the chances of hitting a utility line located on your property. According to “The Top 5 Home Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself,” homeowners often get into trouble when they attempt to modify a plumbing system, like rerouting, repairing or replacing sewer pipes. Should a homeowner choose to repair or replace a utility line, a utility line location service is available to help determine the location of the lines.

Call Before You Dig is a federally-mandated national program that provides homeowners a utility line location service. By calling 811, the service will provide a locator who will help a homeowner locate the utility lines on their property to keep them from inadvertently hitting an underground line while digging. Even repairing a failed water or sewer line caused by root infiltration could disrupt service to neighbors if a homeowner is unaware that the underground lines on their property are connected to a shared line, which could result in a hefty repair bill and city-imposed fines.

Homeowners can have the utility lines on their property marked for reference – what a great idea! Knowing where the water and sewer lines outside the home are located will enable homeowners to monitor ground conditions for potential leaks or breaks via soft spots, pooling water or foul odors.

Calling 811 is simple from anywhere in the country. The number routes the call to a local call center that works with your local utility companies. Simply tell the agent your address and describe the intended project. Within a few days a locator will mark the approximate position of the pipes, lines and cables at your residence so digging can be done safely or noted for future reference. The locators will use color-coded flags as markers for the appropriate utility line:

  • Red – Electric
  • Orange – Communications and Telephone
  • Blue – Water
  • Green – Sewer and Drainage
  • Yellow – Gas
  • Purple – Reclaimed Water
  • White – Project Site

To contact your local 811 center, visit http://www.call811.com.

Average Cost of a Service Line Repair or Replacement

iStock_000000798259Large - BackhoeAs a property owner, you are responsible for maintenance of the water and sewer lines that run from the exterior of your home to the public utility connection. Should a line for which you are responsible break, spring a leak or clog, the repair can cost an average of $2,600 or more. If a sewer line breaks under the street before the tap (which is still the homeowner’s responsibility), the repair could be $10,000 or more. That’s an out-of-pocket expense that is both unanticipated and can wreak havoc on a family budget.  Usually repairs to the service lines on your property are not covered by a homeowner’s policy and the city in which you live is only responsible for public service lines. 

As a homeowner, you are responsible for the portion of line beneath your property that runs from the main connection to your home and like most repairs – if this line breaks it can be a very expensive repair. But just how expensive?

While actual costs may vary, HomeAdvisor.com shows that the national repair average of a sewer line repair is approximately $2,600 and approximately $1,030 for a water main. Keep in mind these are national averages for repairs and a variety of factors contribute to these costs such as the length of the line, depth and location of the problem.

Let’s take a look at what kind of factors contribute to a line replacement.

  • Problem Identified – Maybe you smelled raw sewage or noticed extreme damp spots in your lawn. The bottom line – you know there’s a problem and now you need a plumber.
  • Locating a Plumber – If you’ve never had the need for a plumber before and aren’t currently enrolled with a repair service, the process begins with combing through local plumbers to find an affordable and trustworthy plumber in the area. Your research might include whether they are licensed to do business in your area, whether they are knowledgeable to obtain permits to dig and verifying their accreditation status with the Better Business Bureau.”
  • Evaluation – Once you locate a plumber (or two), you’ll need to assess the situation. The plumber will come out and inspect the line and determine the problem. They’ll likely give you a quote and you may want to get a second opinion depending on the cost.
  • Factors Affecting the Cost –  There are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of a repair – such as the length of the line, location of the problem, and general plumber fees. Much like going to a mechanic or lawyer, you will have to pay people for their time and depending on how long the repair takes, the costs could add up quickly. The type of pipe you have may also affect the cost. It’s possible in some older homes you are using outdated pipe that is difficult to repair, resulting in a replacement need. The location of the problem can also cause headaches during a repair. It could be in a difficult-to-reach location, buried deeply under the earth or possibly the result of root intrusion from poorly placed landscaping.
  • After-the-fact Costs – Once the repair is made, it may not be the end of costs. If you had an unknown water leak you could be responsible for a hefty water bill if the leak went unnoticed for quite some time. Additionally, if the leak was significant enough, there may be landscape damage needing to be repaired. 

Replacing lines often requires digging, which involves a long, deep trench or trenches to remove the old pipes and install new ones at a cost of approximately $50-$250 or more per foot, depending on the length of the line, depth of the pipes, ease of access, local rates and code and permitting requirements. An average sewer replacement from the house to the public sewer system can cost upwards of $3,000; however, if the repair is complicated or the pipe is in the street it could be upwards of $7,000 to as much as $25,000 or more. CostHelper readers report paying $4,500-$13,000, or $50-$100 for per foot traditional replacement of 50′-100′ of sewer line, for an average cost of $7,493, or $106 per foot.

However, not all repairs require digging. Many plumbers offer trenchless sewer replacement, which uses a machine to push the old pipe out while installing a new pipe at the same time. Though less invasive on your yard, the cost can still run between $60 and $200 per foot, or an average of $3,500 to $20,00 per household. CostHelper readers paid an average of $232 per foot.

The bottom line – a water or sewer line replacement isn’t as simple as one phone call to a plumber on your own. There’s research, quotes, phone calls and hassles, which could be eliminated with warranty repair services.

 

 

Sewer problem warnings

Repair water pipeSewer backups are a nasty business, from the mess they leave behind to the expense of having the repairs completed and potentially ruining family treasures. It’s important as a homeowner to educate yourself about the warning signs of a sewer problem, long before a backup occurs.

Look for:

  • Soggy ground when it hasn’t rained.
  • Irregular bumps or low spots the yard.
  • Foul odor or sewer gas smells, such as rotten eggs.
  • Gurgling sounds.
  • Slow drains.

If you suspect you have a sewer problem, contact your warranty provider first to send a technician out for repairs. If you do not have a warranty provider, contact a local, certified plumber who can inspect your sewer line with a camera and locate any problems in the joints.

Protecting your home from sewer problems starts with learning what not to put down the drain. Learn more about what to keep out of the sewer here.

Early detection is the key to preventing larger problems for your home.

Myth Busted: I Can Pour Anything Down the Drain

iStock_000007110284XSmall US marketplace benefitsDrains are found in sinks, showers, garbage disposal, toilets and stationary tubs. What most frequently goes into your drain? The correct answer is water. Water leaves your home via the sewer or waste water line and fresh, clean water is supplied to your home via the water line. What many people don’t realize is that, besides water, what goes into your drain impacts the condition of your service lines.

Before pouring hot bacon grease down the drain, you might want to think twice. As grease cools it begins to solidify, which will accumulate along drain walls and start to trap food, hair and debris. Eventually, flow will be impacted because the lines become clogged.

Things you should not pour into a drain, grind in a garbage disposal or flush down the commode include:

  • Solid foods such as fruit rinds or peels, cereal, etc.
  • Paper products such as paper towels, disposable diapers and feminine products
  • Hair (human or otherwise) or lint
  • Dirt
  • Cigarette butts
  • Medications
  • Chemicals such as antifreeze; insecticides; pesticides; cleaners and solvents; fertilizers; paint; batteries and more

Cooking oil, grease or greasy foods can be frozen or mixed with cat litter or coffee grounds in an empty can and put in the trash. Certain household chemicals can contaminate septic tanks and wastewater treatment systems, as well as harm sanitation workers if poured down drains or commodes. All medications should follow proper Federal Drug Administration disposal requirements, which can be found here. Many communities have “take back” programs that enable residents to drop off unused medication and special collection days for chemicals to ensure their proper disposal. Learn about the Environmental Protection Agency standards for chemical disposal here.

Don’t let the spring thaw wash away homeowner budgets

hand-squeezing-dollar-mainThe winter season has been exceptionally hard on our nation this year as we faced heavy rains, extreme cold, drastic temperature changes and record-breaking snowfalls. As a result, our water and sewer lines were subject to hazardous conditions that could drastically affect their life expectancy.

Homeowners around the nation have felt the pain of what these extreme weather conditions have done to our infrastructure. In Georgia, record-breaking cold weather ruptured water, gas and sewer pipes around the state in early January. Crews worked around the clock to service customers who were left without functional water, sewer or heat. In the northern states, several storms dumped foot after foot of snow, closing schools and causing flooding problems.

As we look towards spring and the ground thaws, for most homeowners, danger is still present. Heavy rains and ground shifts can damage pipes on your property. In addition, long periods of drought can also be problematic for infrastructure because of the hard ground. Protect yourself by knowing how to identify a problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

Investing in your aging infrastructure

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Aging infrastructure is a growing concern for homeowners in North America. After the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation a D+ rating in infrastructure, many communities took note of the problems facing not only city infrastructure, but homeowners as well.

pinhole leak in a water pipe can release thousands of gallons of clean water into the ground. In areas prone to excessive heat and droughts, water is a precious resource few can afford to waste. Additionally, a leaking sewer system can release thousands of gallons of ground pollution into the environment if left broken. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified the need to address the aging infrastructure of water and wastewater service lines around the nation as a top priority. People rely on these lines daily to bring fresh water and remove waste from their homes. Their continued functionality is essential to everyday life and maintaining the health and environment of all communities.

While we can’t completely prevent failures to service lines, homeowners can protect their infrastructure with programs like Service Line Warranties of America’s  warranty program.

To learn more about the ASCE infrastructure report card or how the EPA plans to address the aging infrastructure, visit the links below.

For more information, please visit:

American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card
http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Aging Water Infrastructure
http://www.epa.gov/awi/

Learn about Water
http://www2.epa.gov/learn-issues/learn-about-water

Wastewater Management
http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/index.cfm

Myths Busted! Water and sewer lines never break

Repair water pipe

A common myth is that water and sewer lines never break. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind – because the service lines usually lie underground and buried beneath our homes, we don’t think about them. Yet, more than 850 water main breaks occur in North America every day according to www.watermainbreakclock.com!  It is only when the water or sewer line fails (clogs, leaks or breaks) that we give them any thought. Often the pipes or lines for which homeowners are responsible – those that run from outside the home to the public utility connection – are generally believed to last for 40, 50 or even 60 years.  Many factors contribute to the useful lifetime of a homeowner’s water and sewer pipes or service lines, some of which include the material from which the lines are made, the weather and soil conditions.

What causes water and sewer lines to fail?
Root Intrusion
Do you often admire the saplings the former property owner planted some 40 years ago? The roots of those now full-grown trees stretch deep into the ground and could very well be permeating the small cracks in your service lines that are as old or older. The roots grow in the direction of the water source to thrive and, once a small opening in the service line is found, will begin to penetrate the line. Roots invading sewer lines could cause clogs and result in raw sewage seeping into the yard, not to mention an unpleasant odor and soil contamination.

Ground Shifting
As a result of ground movement or shifting, water and sewer line joints may become loosened or dislodged, often causing the pipes to crack, misalign or collapse. Once this happens, it becomes an easy entry point for clay and debris, which will eventually cause the line to clog.

Especially susceptible to shifting are the areas along the West Coast and Pacific Northwest when an earthquake occurs. The shifts can be of such magnitude that damages to the public water and sewer lines could hamper the delivery of fresh, clean water to communities for several days.

Weather
We’ve experienced some extreme fluctuations in temperature, drought conditions and record amounts of rain and snowfall during the past few years. These extremes can cause water and sewer line corrosion and accelerated soil erosion, which affects the quality of the lines. A slight change of only 10 degrees in air or water temperatures can cause significant stress on service lines. For example, water temperatures below 40 degrees can cause the pipes to become brittle and air temperatures at or below 32 degrees cause the ground above it to freeze, thereby increasing stress on the line.

The bottom line – water and sewer lines can and will break. Check out some recent examples of water line breaks and the headaches they’ve caused for homeowners and their communities:

Water Main Break Causes Problems For North Hills Residents
Jan 24, 2014 – ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – A water main break in Ross Township erupted with such great force Friday morning that water was seen shooting out of the ground. Nearly two dozen homes in the area were left without service. It was a busy morning for crews …

Sewer Main Break Causing Massive Traffic Delays
Jan 24, 2014 – The sewer main break near 44 Bedford Street is causing massive traffic delays and may not be completed in time for the Friday morning commute.