Common trench sewer program aims to curb Berea flooding

BEREA, Ohio — With specific details yet to come, City Council on May 2 heard the first public reading — in title only — of an ordinance establishing the Common Trench Improvement Partnership Program, which will enable residents to work with the city to stem flooding on their properties.

Homeowners whose residences are serviced through a common trench sewer, in which their sanitary and stormwater lines are stacked in the same underground channel, will be eligible to participate in the program.

Groundwater and stormwater can flow into broken underground sewer pipes and connections, causing what is known as inflow and infiltration, which, in turn, leads to sewer backups into basements.

A list of Berea addresses serviced by a common trench sewer, estimated at between 500 and 600 homes, will be included with the legislation.

“The city will commit to improving the portion of the lateral sewer line located on public property when the owner of the property served by the common trench sewer makes the necessary improvements to the lateral sewer line on private property,” the ordinance indicates.

Council President Jim Maxwell said he presented to the law director a list of ideas council representatives have proposed so she can draft the ordinance. His goal is to have council enact a detailed, finalized piece before recessing for the summer.

“When the legislation is passed, anybody in the community would know whether or not they qualify for the program,” Maxwell said.

An explanation of the homeowner’s responsibility, and the city’s commitment, would be included in the ordinance. He said he wants a time frame, in years, listed for the partnership “so there is a distinct beginning and potential distinct end.”

Maxwell envisions a comprehensive packet of information for residents. The application process should be defined, he said, as well as how citizens can pursue outside assistance in helping to pay for their repairs.

“I’m not suggesting the city fund it, but the city can help point residents in the right direction for low-cost home improvement loans or potential NEORSD programs to assist on private property,” Maxwell said.

He emphasized that the common trench program is just “one piece of the puzzle” when addressing residential flooding, noting that any reduction in inflow and infiltration will lessen the problem.

“We want to make sure we get as many people’s (lateral pipes) fixed as possible in the (Ward 1) neighborhood,” Councilwoman Erika Coble said. “That’s the goal.”

Councilman Chris McManis said the new program “encourages participation.”

“Let’s try to get as many people involved as possible, with as much information up front, so that the money can be spent responsibly and we can maximize the program,” McManis advised.

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