With an Infrastructure Spending Bill on the Horizon, RestorationEze Discusses the Impact an Aging Sewer System is Having on Homeowners

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With trade legislation complete, Congress now eyes a bi-partisan infrastructure spending bill, and while most people think of highways, bridges and railroads, little thought is given to one of our most crucial pieces of infrastructure: our sewage system. RestorationEze, the nation’s leading network of local sewage cleanup companies, discusses the impact a crumbling sewage system is having on homeowners, insurance companies, and local municipalities, as well as the ways homeowners can protect themselves from expensive sewage backups.

Sewage Backup Overflow

Raw Sewage Overflowing from a Toilet

Nationwide, the average cost of cleaning sewage backups is around $5,000, and it’s not unusual to see the amount rise above $10,000 if it affects a finished area of the home. Fortunately, most of these losses can be prevented.

There has been much discussion in Washington, D.C. about our nation’s aging infrastructure. While most people think of highways, bridges and railroads, often overlooked is the over 740,000 miles of municipal sewer lines designed to move human waste out of our homes and buildings and into sewage treatment facilities. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the average age of these pipes is over 30 years old, and in some cities, sections of the sewer line are wood and clay pipes that are over 100 years old.

As more and more properties tie into an aging sewer system, taxing that system to ever greater degrees, it should come as no surprise that sewer overflows and sewage backups are on the rise. Last year, the EPA estimated that as many as 75,000 sanitary sewer overflows occurred, while the Association of California Water Agencies estimated over 500,000 sewage backup claims were filed nationwide. And those statistics do not include the countless number of additional sewage backups that were never filed by homeowners.

“Our nation’s aging sewage infrastructure is wreaking havoc for homeowners and insurance carriers while putting immense pressure on already stretched municipal budgets,” says Matt Buchanan, owner of RestorationEze, a nationwide sewage cleanup service. “Without greater awareness and a concerted effort on the parts of individuals and communities, the problem is only going to worsen.”

Sewage damage is typically the result of one of two causes: a sewage backup caused by a block in the property’s sewer line, or a sewage overflow caused by heavy rains that overwhelm a city’s combined sewer system.

The single greatest cause of sewage backups is pouring grease and other cooking oils down the drain. “Just by stopping this practice alone, we could reduce the maintenance costs incurred by municipalities by over $1 billion each year, not to mention the actual costs of the damages to homeowners,” Mr. Buchanan states. “Nationwide, the average cost of cleaning sewage backups is around $5,000, and it’s not unusual to see the amount rise above $10,000 if it affects a finished area of the home. Fortunately, most of these losses can be prevented.”

In some communities there is an even greater threat: rainfall. According to the EPA, there are over 750 cities in the United States that have a combined sewer system, meaning the same pipe that carries raw sewage also carries storm water during times of rainfall. When this combined sewer line has too much water passing through it, the water travels up the property’s main sewer line and into the home. “These antiquated sewer systems pose a huge health risk to homeowners, but most startling is that estimates put the cost of bringing them into the 21st century at over $1 trillion dollars over the course of the next 20 years,” Mr. Buchanan states.

When it comes to sewage damage, experts agree protection should take on two forms: physical and financial. The single best thing homeowners can do to prevent a sewage backup is have a backflow prevention device installed outside of the home. On average, it costs around $1000 to have a licensed plumber install this system. “But even that is not foolproof and damage can occur,” Mr. Buchanan says. “Most homeowners do not realize their standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover sewage damage and that they need to add a sewage backup rider to protect themselves financially.” According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost of adding a sewage backup rider is $40-$50 annually. “For around $4 per month, you can be protected against a disaster that could cause upwards of $10,000 in damages to your home,” says Mr. Buchanan.

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