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This article was published 25/1/2011 (3154 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
What's in your drain?
Premier Greg Selinger and Mayor Sam Katz want you to take a look under a plan that enlists Winnipeggers in this year's spring flood fight.
They unveiled a joint $1-million incentive program Tuesday that pays homeowners up to 60 per cent of the cost of installing a sewer backup system to a maximum of $3,000. The package covers up to $1,000 toward the installation of an in-line backwater valve and up to $2,000 toward the installation of a sump pump.
The program will be retroactive to May 1, 2010 to include work done since last summer's heavy rain. It's still subject to approval by city council, but the premier and mayor said Winnipeggers shouldn't wait to get the work done.
"There's no reason for people to wait," Selinger said. "If they've done work already with a permit from the city, they will qualify. If they want to do work, don't wait. Go for it right now. Make arrangements with your plumber."
A report by the city says the cost of installing a backwater valve and sump pit varies from house to house. Some issues include the depth of sewer piping under the basement floor and how accessible the house sewer is from existing walls and the building's foundation. The average range of costs for a complete retrofit of an in-line backwater valve and sump pit and pump system is $2,500 to $9,000.
Selinger said the program is needed to reduce as much as possible basement flooding due to overwhelmed sewer systems — a threat that may be greater this year. On Monday, the province warned southern Manitoba is facing a flood risk on the level of 2009 and perhaps worse if we're hit by a late-winter blizzard or early spring rainstorms.
Katz said officials hope more than 1,000 Winnipeg homeowners take advantage of the program.
He also said it will likely be extended for several years as more people apply.
"We want to make sure that we have all homes with sump pumps — that's the objective," Katz said. "We're hoping that we can end a lot of misery for a lot of citizens and hopefully save some of the public money that's being spent over and over and over and over again."
Selinger said the province will work with other Manitoba municipalities if they want to copy the program. Toronto, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Hamilton, and London have had similar programs.
He added homeowners who've never had water in their basement should take nothing for granted.
That's because much of the soil in southern Manitoba is saturated with rain from last summer and fall, so any additional precipitation this flood season could cause sudden overland flooding.
The devices and what they do
Most older homes in Winnipeg do not have sump pumps or backwater valves.
All homes built since 1979 are required to have backwater valves and all homes built since 1990 are required to have sump pits with pumps.
Backwater valve: It prevents sewer water backing up into your basement.
Sump pit/pump: It collects ground or rain water from the weeping tiles around your basement foundation and pumps it out away from your home.
Experts say a backwater valve is the most essential as it stops sewer water from polluting your home and the inconvenience of a costly cleanup. However, when the valve closes, it cannot drain rainwater coming from the weeping tiles. Without a sump pump, water overflows into your basement from the floor drain.
Homeowners can also lessen the chances of rainwater seeping into their homes by attaching extensions to their eavestrough downspouts.
Many older residential sewer drains are equipped with a simple back-flow-prevention device. This device activates when the sewer backs up, pushing a spring-loaded rubber stopper into place. This device does not replace a backwater valve. A backwater valve is installed in the sewer line and ensures sewer backup does not come out through other plumbing in your basement, such as sinks, toilets, showers and laundry tubs.
Only licensed plumbers should install backup valves and sump pumps. A permit is required.
25 feet above normal winter ice level
Worst-case scenario for the Red River at the James Avenue monitoring station this spring, based on the initial provincial flood outlook.
Red River level at the James station at the peak of the 1997 "Flood of the Century."
Red River level at the James station at the peak of the spring 2009 flood.
Number of properties the city plans to protect from a 25-foot flood this spring.
Number of sandbags the city expects to fill to protect those properties.
Length of primary dikes that must be raised within the City of Winnipeg this spring.
Projected number of sewer-system operations that must be made to prevent rising river water from overwhelming sewers. Operations include closing drainage gates, operating pumping stations and setting up temporary pumps.
Manholes that must be sealed this spring.
The gross cost of fighting the 1997 flood in Winnipeg. The city received $31 million in disaster assistance and incurred a net cost of $12 million.
The gross cost of fighting the 2009 flood. The city received $5.8 million in disaster assistance and incurred a net cost of $5.6 million.
Source: City of Winnipeg