Improper Downspout Connections
What are they?
Many older homes may have downspouts that disappear into the ground and are most likely connected directly to the sanitary sewer system. This means that rain water that runs off your roof and into your gutters may run directly into the sanitary sewer.
Even though this type of connection to the city's sanitary sewer system is not allowed by the Muscatine City Code 4-6-2.3 (K), (PDF) we currently do not actively search for them. However future programs will be implemented to locate these connections and insure they are disconnected.
Why is this a problem?
One problem is that during heavy rainfalls too much water can enter and overwhelm the sanitary sewer system. When this happens the excess rain water now mixed with raw sewage has to go somewhere. often times that will be in somebody's basement, or it may overflow the top of a manhole where it can find its way to a public area or body of water.
Another problem is that the open connection to the sewer system allows grit from shingles and other debris such as sticks and leaves to enter the system and possibly cause a blockage. If a blockage would occur in a house service line or the main sewer line during a rain storm, the results could be disastrous.
Why should you care?
Sewer backups and overflows are messy and costly and cause a threat to public health and the environment.
To a homeowner the costs of cleanup, repairing damage and replacing ruined carpets and furniture can be very expensive and time consuming, and often times a homeowner's insurance will not cover this type of damage.
Sewage that reaches streams, lakes, and rivers can cause illness in fish, kill aquatic life, and make the water unusable for fishing and swimming.
The excess rain water is now in the sanitary sewer system and will eventually be treated at the city's waste water treatment facility; this could result in increased utility costs for treating water that does not require treatment.
What can you do?
If you suspect that you have connected downspouts but are unsure, or if you would like to voluntarily disconnect your downspout connection, you can contact the Collection and Drainage Division of Public Works and we will assist you in determining if your downspouts are connected to the sanitary sewer and give direction on how to disconnect them.
You can also help by spreading the word to your friends and neighbors how improper downspout connections can cause sanitary sewer backups and overflows, and that these types of connections are costly to the entire community.