Residents in Syracuse’s Eastwood neighborhood have paid tens of thousands of dollars in repairs due to backed-up city sewer lines — and they’re not happy about it.
The problem has gotten so bad that the neighborhood association scheduled a meeting for Aug. 10, so homeowners could meet with officials from the Onondaga County Department of Water Environmental Protection and the City of Syracuse Department of Public Works.
Kristin Ingram’s basement flooded twice, once in May and once in June. After she had the water and sewage pumped out the second time, her basement wall collapsed. She’s already spent $15,000 repairing the damage, and has not yet replaced her ruined furnace.
Celine Baird’s basement flooded three times in just six weeks this year, causing a minimum of $20,000 in damage.
The city’s DPW said there was nothing to be done from its perspective.
City officials have maintained that they aren’t aware of any problems that should be causing an increase in the frequency of flooded basements. Vince Esposito, the city’s sewer consultant, told Syracuse.com that severe storms like those seen recently would overwhelm sewers even if they were brand new.
“It’s a tough thing for anybody to understand, the idea that these sewers are not built to handle the volume of water that comes in a 25- or 50-year event,” he said.
Dealing with sewage when it rains is often challenging because some drain lines are designed to handle both sanitary sewage and stormwater. Syracuse has a system in place — one designed to prevent sewer backups in streets and basements — under which the flow from these lines is discharged into Onondaga Creek and Harbor Brook in periods of heavy rain.
But that system doesn’t solve all drainage problems in the city.
Esposito told Syracuse.com that homeowners should consider having a backwater protection system, which includes a valve that shuts off the house sewer connection when water is flowing in the wrong direction, installed by a professional plumbing company. Additionally, a house’s sewer connection generally needs to be replaced when it’s about 40 years old.
But that kind of plumbing work can be a significant investment — leaving most residents hoping that city officials will be able to provide more comprehensive answers sometime soon.