Should Ann Arbor keep its footing drain disconnection program? Tuesday public meeting marks beginning of study
The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the media center at Tappan Middle School at 2251 E. Stadium Drive in Ann Arbor.
Ryan Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo
The study will evaluate whether continuing the footing drain disconnection program is still the best option for the city to pursue.
The city initiated the project after resident complaints regarding the footing drain disconnection program caused it to be temporarily suspended in an unanimous Ann Arbor City Council vote in September.
An analysis of the footing drain disconnection program has been a part of its capital improvements plan since its inception, said Nick Hutchinson, project manager for the city. The suspension may have hastened the review of the program by a year, Hutchinson said.
A footing drain is a small drainage pipe four inches in diameter located near the foundation of a house intended to keep rainwater seeping through the ground from collecting near the foundation of a basement. For many Ann Arbor homes, they’re connected to the sanitary sewer.
During storm events, rainwater from the storm sewer overflowed into the sanitary sewer, which then backed up into some basements with footing drains. As an effort to confront the problem in 2001, a study and citizens advisory committee recommended the footing drain disconnect program, Hutchinson said.
Courtesy of the City of Ann Arbor
The Sanitary Sewer Wet Weather evaluation study is one of several stormwater and flooding-related studies being conducted by the city - the most major of which is the $2 million Stormwater Model Calibration and Analysis.
“Some of the answers from the monitoring on stormwater will help inform the sanitary project,” said Jerry Hancock, stormwater and floodplain coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor. “They weren’t timed to happen together on purpose.”
There’s also a joint study underway between the city of Ann Arbor and the Washtenaw County Office of Water Resources of the Upper Malletts Creek watershed.
Historically, Malletts Creek flowed through where the Landsdowne neighborhood sits now - an area known for footing drain backups during wet weather events.
Hutchinson said the sanitary sewer study will review new technologies to see if there’s ways of alleviating the flow through the sanitary sewer during storm events to prevent the water levels in the pipe from overwhelming the system.
“Everything’s going to be on the table here,” Hutchinson said.
Additionally, a citizens advisory committee will be formed to see the project through its 18 to 24 month time frame.
“Ultimately, (the citizens advisory committee) will be involved in selecting economically viable alternatives for dealing with sanitary sewer backups,” Hutchinson said, noting that their recommendations will go before city council for approval.
Most of the data in the study will be collected over the summer.
The study will use meters that have been placed in the sanitary sewer system to gauge how full the pipe gets during storm events, said Troy Baughman, project manager for the city of Ann Arbor.
Another meter will measure velocity and flow levels. Rain gauge data is also being used.
The city has similar data on sanitary sewer flows prior to the initiation of the footing drain disconnection program to see if the program has had an impact.
Aside from the study, the city is working with residents who reported that their sump pumps installed by the city are ineffective in keeping water from flooding their basements in some neighborhoods where the city’s stormwater system has been overwhelmed.
“We are looking into basement wetness issues that have had footing drain disconnects,” Hutchinson said.