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Geneva committee recommends overhead sewer grant program to $10k from $3k

Grant programs expanded to reduce groundwater infiltration in sanitary sewers

GENEVA – Aldermen at the Committee of the Whole recommended approval Monday to update its overhead sewer grant program to $10,000 from $3,000 to resolve groundwater infiltration for homeowners experiencing flooding.

City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins said between May 15 and May 17, Geneva received more than seven inches of rainfall, causing flooded roadways, ponding water in detention facilities – and impacts to the sanitary sewer system.

Westfield Course within the Geneva East Unit 2, Phase 2 subdivision was especially impacted, Dawkins said.

“The overhead sewer assistance program has been in place since 2009 to assist property owners in the installation of an overhead sewer system to protect property from sanitary sewer backups,” Dawkins said. “The proposed Geneva City Code amendment updates and enhances the current program to a Sanitary Backflow Prevention Program.”

Backflow is prevented by installing a device on a building's sewer line that is designed to allow flow in only one direction, officials said.

The updated system will allow more flexibility for property owners to decide which device best suits their needs, she said.

The previous system provided for a 50% grant reimbursement for installing an overhead ejector system to a maximum of $3,000, according to a memo from Public Works Director Richard Babica.

Residents could not get contractors to install the systems at that price and residents asked for an increase in the funding limit, according to Babica’s memo.

Staff reviewed the program and other communities’ sanitary overhead backflow prevention programs, leading to a recommendation to create three additional programs for customers to use, according to Babica’s memo.

Assuming 10 customers participate per program, the annual budgetary impact of implementing programs would be $347,500 all absorbed within the water and wastewater capital program, the memo stated.

This includes $340,000 for the grants and $7,500 for permit and inspection fees. The capital program funds water main replacement/maintenance and the sanitary sewer collection system rehabilitation, the memo stated.

All grants would be reimbursements to the property owner to ensure that the warranty for the work is between the owner and the contractor, according to the memo.

In arriving at the recommended amount to be reimbursed, staff reviewed 23 communities with similar reimbursement programs ranging from $2,000 in Addison at the lowest to 75% of an unlimited amount in Naperville, his memo stated.

The basis for this program is to help reduce the infiltration of groundwater into the sanitary sewer collection system. A recently completed underground inspection of the sanitary sewers within the Westfield Course neighborhoods identified 31 areas with groundwater infiltration, according to Babica’s memo.

Infiltration of groundwater remains the primary cause of excess flows into the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Reducing these flows is why the city is expending over $1.2 million in fiscal year 2021 and has expended over $2.5 million since 2009 in lining, repairing and evaluating the 121 miles of sanitary sewers within the city, the memo stated.

Repairs to the lateral sanitary sewer lines are the property owner’s responsibility, so the updated program will allow 100% reimbursement up to $5,000 for a property owner to install a liner or lateral sanitary sewer grouting, the memo stated.

Another source of groundwater infiltration into the sanitary sewer collection system comes from a building's footing drain tiles.

These systems are designed to channel water away from a foundation and sometimes are connected to a sanitary system via sump pump, the memo stated.

“They can introduce a significant volume of groundwater into the sanitary system. Similar to the lateral lining program, the goal is to reduce as much of the volume of groundwater into the collection system as possible,” Babica’s memo stated.

“Connections to the sanitary sewer are prohibited by the City Code and the only mechanism to fix is through the code compliance process," according to the memo. "This program will provide 100% reimbursement up to $5,000, to the property owner to separate the footing tile from the sanitary sewer line.”

The grant program would also provide for reimbursement of costs up to $6,500 to replace lead or galvanized service lateral lines from the water meter inside the building to the external shut-off valve outside, the memo stated.

Costs associated with the replacement of the service lateral from the outside shut-off to the water main would remain the responsibility of the utility, his memo stated.

The City Council will take final action on the committee’s recommendation.

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