When sudden downpours occur, which seem to happen ever more frequently in NYC and in other areas, a public or NYC sewer frequently backs up. Property owners can be left with inches or feet of waste-water in their basements. This past weekend property owners across New York City were left with just such a sewer condition.
After the fact certain SAFETY PRECAUTIONS must be taken. First of all never enter into a condition when there is any chance of electric current. Serious injury or death can result from wandering into water where electric current is flowing. Secondly, water can make a pilot light go out for a gas appliance, thereby resulting in a dangerous gas condition. Always call your public utility gas provider, in NYC: National Grid or Con Edison, or a licensed professional.
What can you do after taking safety precautions?
After a City sewer back-up: Frequently the sole cause of the sewer back up is the City sewer being “surcharged” (backed up) due to the heavy rainfall. After the rain dissipates, the City sewer flows normally again and the water in a basement will dissipate as well. No sewer cleaning or repair work will be needed in this case. A wet/dry vacuum and a dehumidifier may be all you need. If you still have an issue with sewer run off, always call a licensed professional.
Precautions to take:Certain preventive measures can be taken to prevent a City sewer from backing up into your basement:
- Make sure sewer trap plugs are fit tightly on the sewer trap. Replace old ill-fitting sewer trap plugs with fit-all plugs. Fit-all plugs can be purchased from any plumbing supply or hardware store for less than .00 each.
- If the house sewer is solely for sanitary use (not for any rain water flow) a back-water check valve can be installed in front (the street side) to the house trap. This work must be performed by a Licensed Master Plumbing firm.
- If the house sewer in question is also for storm water (rain water) flow and there are plumbing fixtures in the basement (such as a toilet, shower, or a sink) backwater check valves can be installed for individual plumbing fixtures.
What is a backwater check valve? A backwater check valve is a self-operating valve that only allows for water flow in one direction. If properly installed by a Licensed Professional, maintained, it will prevent water from flowing in the opposite direction thereby preventing backups from a City sewer. A backwater check valve should be cleaned every 6 months to a year, a task easily performed by a non-professional by removing a few screws. No special tools or skills are required for maintenance on a backwater check valve.
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