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Home Damaged by Sewage Backup? The Philadelphia Water Department’s Basement Protection Program May Help.
Water

Home Damaged by Sewage Backup? The Philadelphia Water Department’s Basement Protection Program May Help.

As Philadelphians reel from the damage unleashed by Hurricane Isaias ­­and brace for increased storm surges due to climate change, residents have a resource to protect their homes from future high rain events.

The strong winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Isaias knocked out power and flooded the homes of many Philadelphia residents when it tore through the region on August 4th.

Unfortunately, storms of this severity are only projected to become more frequent due to climate change — and it’s important that residents take advantage of opportunities to protect their health and property as weather extremes in the city grow more severe.

The Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) Basement Protection Program is a good place to start. If your basement is prone to sewage backup during severe weather events, you may be eligible to have the problem resolved through their program.

What Does the Basement Protection Program Offer?

1. Backwater Valve Installation

The program provides free backwater valve installations for qualifying residents.

Backwater valves typically allow wastewater from the home to flow into the sewer main, which can cause sewage to enter your basement if the system has reached capacity.

The instrument installed by the PWD prevents this by only permitting wastewater to flow out of the house.

This graphic shows how it works.

A picture containing green, sitting, table, computer

Description automatically generated
Courtesy of the Basement Protection Program PDF.

2. Downspout Modification

Downspout modifications are also provided free of charge.

It’s common for roof downspouts and yard drains to flow into the same drainage pipe as indoor plumbing fixtures. This can pose a problem if the local sewer is full; forcing home stormwater and wastewater to surface in the basement.

The Philadelphia Water Department can remediate the issue by disconnecting your roof downspout and redirecting stormwater to a green area or open space.

Who’s Eligible?

In order to be eligible for Basement Protection Program benefits, you and your home must fit these criteria:

  • Your property is experiencing water backing up from the City’s sewer through connected basement fixtures, toilets, or floor drains.
  • You are current on your water bill or can enter into a payment agreement.
  • Any violations issued by PWD or other City Agencies must be addressed.
  • All plumbing systems related to the installation must be accessible.
  • You must sign an agreement. You’ll be responsible for fixing your backflow preventer or downspout if they become damaged.

Registration and Processing

If you meet the eligibility requirements, complete and submit the Basement Protection Program application found on the final page of the PDF linked here.

Send the application by mail to PWD Basement Protection Program, 1101 Market Street, 6th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107 or attach the form in an email sent to waterinfo@phila.gov.

After your application has been processed, an inspector and plumber will complete an evaluation and issue a proposal detailing necessary modifications.

You’ll be asked to sign a Basement Back-flow Prevention Agreement, which confirms your willingness to pay for the maintenance of backwater valves that are installed. In turn, the PWD confirms it will pay for all work related to backwater valve installation and downspout modifications.

You will be granted a one-year warranty for the valves and installation, but homeowners are responsible for maintaining the valves according to maintenance guidelines that keep backwater valves in optimal condition.

Additional Ways to Protect Your Property

There are a number of other precautions you can take to keep your home — and your belongings — safe from floodwater.

Flood insurance is strongly recommended by the PWD. Click here to learn how to obtain flood insurance and determine insurance costs for your property.

Avoid storing valuable possessions like photo albums, art, and important paperwork in your basement.

Get acclimated with the Office of Emergency Management’s resources to prepare yourself for storms and other emergencies.

Browse tips for dealing with flooding in the citywide taskforce’s Guide to Flooding.

Check drainage on your property to ensure that yards, walkways, and driveways are not directing water toward your home. Groundwater pressure, which occurs when the soil surrounding your basement is saturated with water, can cause seepage in the walls and floor.

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Avery Matteo
Avery is a junior at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in English. She is currently an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. In her free time, you can find her curled up with an iced coffee, a book, and her adorable dog Cosmo. View all posts by Avery Matteo

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