Footing Drain Program Temporarily Disconnected

The city of Ann Arbor’s footing drain disconnection program has been temporarily suspended in the area of the Lansdowne neighborhood. The city council action, taken at its Sept. 17, 2012 meeting, followed a meeting held with neighborhood residents at the Pittsfield branch of the Ann Arbor District Library on Aug. 22. At that neighborhood meeting, residents called for a moratorium on the program.

The program was created in 2001 by the city, in response to backups of sanitary sewers into residents’ basements during heavy rains. The problem is caused by the connection of footing drains to the sanitary sewer system, instead of to the stormwater system. At one time, such connections were consistent with city code, but they are now prohibited. The existing connections, however, put more stormwater into the sanitary system than it can handle. The footing drain disconnection program requires residents to install sump pumps in their basements as part of the disconnection from the sanitary system.

In the general vicinity of the Lansdowne neighborhood, where some houses have already had sump pumps installed as part of the program, residents have reported that during heavy rains, the overland stormwater flows and the sheer volume of water in the city’s stormwater system prevent sump pumps from being effective. The water that’s pumped from the sump to the surface simply cycles back into the sump and results in flooded basements.

The council’s Sept. 17 resolution suspending the program acknowledges that the area “has encountered unique, historical creek bed patterns and overland storm water drainage issues, which have impacted the implementation of the FDD [footing drain disconnect] program …” The resolution further acknowledges that “communication between this area and the city needs improvement…”

The city council heard complaints from residents in that area during public commentary earlier this spring about localized flooding in the vicinity. And at its Aug. 9, 2012 meeting, the council had directed staff to begin negotiations with the Washtenaw County water resources commissioner to find “opportunities for stormwater conveyance and stormwater quality improvement in the area of the Malletts Creek drainage district bounded by Ann Arbor-Saline Road upstream to I-94 and Scio Church Road.” [.jpg of partial area map] The resolution approved by the council on Aug. 9 directs staff to bring an agreement to the city council with the water resources commissioner by Oct. 1, 2012.

That council directive came two days after the Aug. 7 primary election was held. Results from the precinct in Ward 4 where the flooding has taken place were nearly decisive enough in favor of challenger Jack Eaton to win the Democratic nomination over incumbent Margie Teall. But Eaton’s total fell short of Teall’s by 18 votes across the ward. And a recounted total put the difference at 20 votes.

The resolution suspending the footing drain disconnection program for the specific area of the city does not specify a date by which it might be re-activated. However, the resolution directs several actions, including: “Analyze and/or address existing issues in the local stormwater system to improve stormwater drainage/conveyance and address the existing surface flooding that residents are experiencing in this area. Clarify the methods and consequences of opting out of the program.”

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]