Cleaning up

11/9/2013

Swift response should help in wake of sewer problem.

Swift response should help in wake of sewer problem.

Residents of the Wilson Addition in Garden City recently found an alarming surprise in their basements.

Sewer backup caused by an unusual clog and malfunction at the city's wastewater treatment plant caused sewage to flood into basements in the subdivision. As of Tuesday, the city knew of 29 homes affected by the backup, and expected at least $300,000 in claims related to property damage to be filed with the city's insurance carrier.

The problem occurred Oct. 20, when workers at the treatment plant discovered a considerable amount of rags and other debris had clogged the pumps. Pumps shut down and the sewer backed up starting at the treatment plant, then north until hitting the Wilson Addition homes.

Frustrated residents left to deal with the mess deserved no less than a speedy, helpful response from the city. The public also needed to know details of the plan to remedy the situation, what caused the problem and how to lessen the odds of another sewer backup in the future.

City officials delivered as much, to include sharing such possible strategies as installing additional monitoring equipment just outside the treatment plant that would produce an alert when water levels rise.

They also outlined ways homeowners could help ward off such an unpleasant development, particularly in not flushing plastic and cloth diapers, rags and other cloth and cotton items in their toilets.

The city also noted that not all homes in the subdivision were affected. Some had a "flapper" designed to allow material to flow out from the house, and close if water tries to come back in from the main. It was a good tip for homeowners.

The situation could have been even worse. With its response, the city at least alleviated some of the pain — although all claims still need to be settled to the satisfaction of those affected by sewer backup.

Local governments often take their lumps for slow or otherwise ineffective reactions to problems, and rightly so. In this instance, the city so far has performed as well as could be expected in addressing a messy situation.

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