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Thu, March 21

City's backwater valve letter causes quite a flap

After the City of Prescott sent letters last month to all water and sewer users concerning the installation of a backwater valves, YCCA began receiving a large number of phone calls on the subject. I use the phrase "large number," but that does not adequately describe the concern I'm hearing from Prescott business owners and residents. Many callers have asked the same questions, and we will answer the most frequently asked questions here today.

Q: What is a backwater valve?

A: A backwater valve is a valve which only opens outwardly (similar to a one-way door), that allows sewage to leave the property thus preventing sewage from backing up the sewer line into the home or business. Backwater valves are installed outside a home or a place of business and are easily accessible for maintenance and cleaning. If a backup occurs, the one-way door blocks the reverse flow of sewage.

Q: What types of property need a backwater valve?

A: All new structures connected to the city sewer system shall be protected by an approved backwater valve. The City of Prescott adopted the 2003 International Plumbing Code by ordinance in December 2003, which requires the installation of backwater valves in all new construction.

Q: Does the official notice received from the City of Prescott require installation of a backwater valve?

A: No. Pure and simple, the notice does not require you to install a backwater valve. Should you at any time make modifications to the property that require a building permit of any type, you will then be required to install a backwater valve if the property does not already have one installed.

Q: Why should I install a backwater valve?

A: Backups have caused thousands upon thousands of dollars of damage to property. Protection of your property from the possibility of a sewer backup by far outweighs the expense to install a backwater valve. A backwater valve is a simple, easy way to protect your property.

Q: If my property seems to sit well above the manhole, am I safe?

A: Not necessarily. The City of Prescott sewer system is extremely complex due to its topography. This complexity creates many situations where sewer system connections can still be above your property and not be visually obvious. Therefore, you cannot assume that just because you have a manhole below your property, you do not have sewage flow connections upstream of your property.

Q: If I have a sewage-pumping system, do I need a backwater valve?

A: No. Pumping systems contain check valves that protect against a backflow situation.

Q: Is there a standard cost to install a backwater valve?

A: Installation costs vary drastically depending on the physical building location on the property and the sewer service line depths.

Q: If I elect to execute the "hold harmless" agreement with the City of Prescott, am I still covered with my homeowners insurance should a backup occur?

A: Resulting damage may be covered under your homeowners' insurance policy. It is important that you ask your agent about your policy's specific coverage and clarify backup location and cause, such as a backup occurring due to in home issues versus a backup occurring due to an unrelated issue outside of the property boundary.

If you have additional questions, the City of Prescott has set up a backwater valve hotline at 777-1170. The City of Prescott and YCCA have partnered to help you with any concerns you have on the issue and act as advocates for the community by cosponsoring a series of seminars to answer your questions and show you what a backwater valve is and how it works. The seminar dates are 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Rowle P. Simmons Senior Center; 6 p.m. March 8 at the Grace Sparkes Activity Center on Gurley Street; and 2 p.m. March 16 at the Prescott Public Library in the Founders Room. Please plan to attend. There will be city staff on hand and local plumbers to answer your questions.

YCCA is meeting with City of Prescott staff Monday to further clarify the code compliance relating to backwater valves as a requirement before issuing a permit of any type. YCCA feels that backwater valves should not be a requirement if you are pulling a permit for a fence or roof or something unrelated to plumbing. We have a very responsible local government, and YCCA is pleased that city staff is interested in reducing unnecessary regulations and possibly considering the rolling back of administrative orders that can be a burden to you, our taxpayers and citizens.

We will keep you updated on this meeting.

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