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Options for preventing sewer backups to be discussed Tuesday

March 24, 2010

Wauwatosa homes experience more basement backups during heavy rain storms that most other communities served by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District, according to information shared by the city engineer last week.

Nine municipalities, including Wauwatosa, reported having basement backups in June 2008 and June 2009. Fourteen other municipalities had backups after only one of those storms, and four municipalities reported that basements stayed dry in both events.

"In terms of how we rate in the metro area, we are on the wetter side," City Engineer Bill Wehrley told the Common Council's Budget and Finance Committee on March 16.

The committee has been discussing how the city can prevent basement backups in the future. Increasing the size of city sanitary sewer pipes, adding storage reservoirs and requiring owners of older homes to disconnect floor drains from the sewer are all ideas that have been brought up.

Bigger pipes could come with a big price tag - $7 million to $9 million just for a handful of areas in the city where studies have been done so far - but access would be fairly easy and results would be immediately seen.

Venturing onto private property could be less costly - $2,500 to $5,000 per home. But 10,000 to 12,000 properties could potentially have foundation drains tied into the sanitary sewer system, and unless a mandate is issued by the city it could take years for change to take hold.

The council did not meet this week. But members of Budget and Finance will continue to consider the options and look into possible funding mechanisms at 8 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

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