By Jordan Cohen
In the wake of numerous basement-flooding incidents after a series of storms, a councilman has started a committee to provide information to help residents protect their homes.
Councilman David Wilkerson, D-1st, said he hopes to staff the committee with “pros who can explain options such as basement waterproofing and back-flow prevention.”
Wilkerson discussed formation of the committee with Brian Pritchard, the owner of a local plumbing service, insurance broker Michael Chuirazzi and several other council members and city officials.
“Everybody wants to blame the city, but there are things homeowners should do to protect themselves,” Wilkerson said.
Randy Fabrizio, wastewater superintendent, said many homes have foundation drains tied into the sanitary-sewer system and when the system overflows during heavy rainfall, the water backs up into the basements.
“Someday, there may be legislation to remove foundation drains from the system, and that will be a hefty bill for homeowners,” Fabrizio warned. “People don’t have the resources to cover it.”
The superintendent said the treatment plant can handle only 6 million gallons of water a day — an insufficient amount during a storm.
“We’re seeing 30 million gallons in heavy rains,” Fabrizio said, adding that the overflow goes back to the foundation drains and into homes.
According to Mayor Ralph Infante, flooding was reported at nearly 40 homes Feb. 28 after a heavy downpour coupled with melting snow. A number of basements on Washington Street were affected.
“Only two or three of [the homeowners] had insurance,” said Councilman Ed Stredney, D-3rd, whose ward includes Washington Street.
Chuirazzi said many insurance companies offer sewer and drain backup coverage in amounts of either $5,000 or $10,000 as an endorsement on home insurance policies at a cost of $45 to $85 per year, but the broker warned the coverage may not be sufficient.
“If you have a sewage backup along with the water, you’re going to need to have a company come in and clean it out, and that may cost you more,” Chuirazzi said. He explained that this type of coverage is different from the more- expensive federal flood insurance, which covers flooding caused from river or creek overflows.
Wilkerson said he wants the committee to make this information available to homeowners, but added that he needs to find out whether the city may face liability issues because of the committee’s efforts.
Another meeting is planned for April 28.