If you’ve spent any time at all watching or reading the news, you’ve probably heard politicians decrying our aging infrastructure…or even the phrase ‘shovel-ready projects’ thrown around quite a bit. On the federal level, the focus has been on highways and bridges and other transportation assets that fall with the federal domain. But on a local level, there’s a crisis brewing that is going to be astronomically expensive to fix: sewer systems.
Sewage problems: a national epidemic but local problem
If you’ve never suffered a sewage backup in your home, consider yourself lucky. Our nation has roughly 750,000 of sewer lines. A big chunk of that system is at risk of total failure and showing its age. Unfortunately, many cities are simply overwhelmed from a budgetary standpoint and can not afford to fix the stinky mess lurking just below the surface. That is, until it rears its ugly head and causes a significant amount of damage. And just how often do sewage systems malfunction and cause problems? It’s impossible to know the actual numbers, but here are some figures we feel reasonably confident about:
- 75,000 sewer overflows last year
- 500,000 sewage backup claims were filed last year
A sewage overflow is when something goes wrong in the main sewer line of the city and it backs up through a manhole or other opening, essentially flooding a public area (street, park, etc.) with raw sewage. A sewage backup is when an actual home gets sewer water in it that requires sewage cleanup services. But not even present in those numbers is the untold sewage losses that aren’t covered under insurance and are never claimed by the homeowner.
What will it cost local governments to address the problem?
While the actual numbers are staggering, both in terms of the number of losses and the cost to repair the damages, the cost to fix the underlying problems will make your jaw drop: Experts estimate it will cost over $1 trillion (yes, with a T) over the course of the next 20 years to upgrade local municipalities’ aging sewer system to meet modern demands. That’s simply money that isn’t there right now, and it’s going to take a very a long time to educate residents about the need to divert funds to this crisis.
What can I do to protect my home?
While asking politicians and other tax paying citizens to change their focus and attention to this crisis might seem impossible, there is something you can do to reduce the chances of a catastrophic sewage backup from happening to you:
Install what is called a sewer backflow valve outside of your home. Below is a diagram showing where it sits in relation to your home, but it’s pretty simple: if sewage is coming back up your pipe and threatening to enter your home, the valve leaps into action and stops it from coming inside.