City to hold forums on private sewer line repairs
Some residents of Fairfield likely will be faced with paying thousands of dollars to repair their private sewer lines.
The city plans to receive a sewer camera in July so it can uncover the location of leaks underground. If the city discovers a serious leak in a private line, it will compel the property owner to fix it. This could cost the property owner between $3,000 and $10,000, according to city administrator Kevin Flanagan and wastewater superintendent Shawn Worley.
Flanagan said the city does not know yet how many property owners will be forced to perform these repairs, but he estimated it could be 20 percent or perhaps even 35 percent of the town.
In an effort to educate the public about why the city is requiring these repairs, the city plans to hold a series of public forums on this issue within the next few months. Flanagan and Worley said the dates and times of the forums have not been set, although they will likely be in the city council chambers at city hall.
“We’re looking to have a public forum so people can air their concerns and let us know how they feel about what we’re looking at doing,” Flanagan said.
The city will send the sewer camera into the private lines it suspects are leaking. After the city has sent the camera into all of the suspicious lines, it will then proceed to send the camera into the remaining private lines in town. Flanagan said the city will begin using the sewer camera this summer. He said it will probably take several years before the city inspects every single private line.
Worley said, “We’re going to use our past reports on where the worst spots are in the city.”
The city is responsible for paying for repairs to city sewer mains, but property owners are fully responsible for the sewer line under their own property. However, the city will set up a revolving loan fund to allow residential property owners to take out low-interest loans.
Property owners who receive a “notice of defect” compelling them to repair their sewer lines have a few options available to them.
One option is for property owners to dig up their yard to replace the defective pipes. Another possibility is to fix the problem through “trenchless repair,” which does not require digging. Private contractors can feed a new pipe into the old pipe. The diameter of the new pipe is necessarily smaller, but Flanagan said new pipes compensate for this by being slicker, which carries the waste more quickly.
Worley said the city has never undertaken a project of this size in which it required large numbers of people to fix their private lines at once. However, a few years ago the city undertook a project in which it compelled many property owners to fix the sidewalks on their property.
“We’ve never done anything quite like this before,” Worley said. “That’s why we’re in the situation we are, because there was never any enforcement.”
Flanagan said the city has needed to compel these repairs for quite some time and the repairs are overdue.
“Our community, like so many others, subsidized future high fee rates and taxes with complacency for over 40 years,” he said.
The city paid a private firm, Visu-Sewer, to send a sewer camera down all the city sewer mains during a project that lasted from 2009-2010. However, that project only involved city mains and not private lines.