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    Project Information

    A footing drain is a series of pipes around and under your home that take groundwater and storm water away from your foundation and channel the water elsewhere. In some homes, the footing drains are connected to the sanitary sewer system and eventually directed to the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The Footing Drain Disconnection Program (FDDP) will collect the groundwater and stormwater and discharge this water to the stormwater sewer system instead of the sanitary sewer system. The water will still be directed away from your foundation and the footing drain pipes will work as originally intended, only their destination will change.
    We will be checking not only to determine if your footing drains are connected to the sanitary sewer system, but also where the water drains if they are not connected to the storm water system. If your home is already compliant, then you are all set. Homes built before 1969 most likely have footing drains that are connected to the sanitary sewer system and should be changed through the FDD Program. Fewer homes built after 1969 have footing drains connected to the sanitary sewer system due to a change of the building code, which made this construction non-compliant.

    ·         Sewer Backups in Homes. 

    ·         Costs to Treat Stormwater and Groundwater (includes water from footing drains).

    ·          Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) sometimes discharges partially treated disinfected sanitary sewage (this is a Combined Sewer Overflow – CSO) into the Grand River as a result of rain events. The WWTP National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit, issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) through authority given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires the elimination of partially treated or untreated discharges by January of 2020.

    1 – Eliminate Backups - Sewer backups in homes which are directly caused by groundwater and/or stormwater being discharged from footing drain connections into the sanitary sewer system will be eliminated. Damages associated with such backups are incurred by the Sanitary Sewer System Fund and in turn the sewer user rates. Sewer Backups in homes can occur as a direct result of groundwater or storm water from footing drains discharging to the sanitary sewer system. The system becomes overloaded and the water in turn goes anywhere it can, which unfortunately can be someone’s basement. The WWTP system is designed to treat wastewater, not stormwater and groundwater. Stormwater and groundwater can normally be discharged directly to the Grand River. The FDDP will direct stormwater and groundwater from footing drains to the stormwater system which flows into the Grand River.  
    2 – Reduce Treatment Costs - Treating stormwater and groundwater the same as sanitary sewage comes with many unnecessary costs. Stormwater and groundwater do not require treatment at the WWTP. When these waters are directed to the sanitary sewer system they receive the same treatment as sanitary sewage. The WWTP process, maintaining sewers, administration for back up calls, testing of pipes, engineering and installation of larger pipes to handle the additional flow are all expenses that can be avoided with the FDD Program.
    3 – Meeting Regulatory Requirements - The WWTP has a state issued discharge permit that specifies what water it can discharge into the Grand River. The permit requires that no partially treated or untreated wastewater can discharge from the system after January of 2020 - even if it is a result of groundwater or stormwater entering the sanitary sewer system due to a rain event or high groundwater levels.  It is estimated that footing drains introduce more than 100 million gallons of stormwater and groundwater into the WWTP during a heavy rain event.  In 2008, we had more than 3 instances in which a combination of partially treated or untreated stormwater, groundwater and sanitary sewage discharged from the sewer system (CSO).
    The excess stormwater and groundwater entering the sanitary sewer system (especially in times of extreme rain events) has caused the sanitary sewers to exceed their capacity, often resulting in sewer backups in basements of homes in many areas of the city. When storm water and/or ground water is introduced into the sanitary sewer system it can overload the WWTP. The City of Grand Rapids has historically chosen to reimburse users for damages incurred during such events; however reimbursement for such damages is not required by law (P.A. 222). The cost of damages to homes that have experienced sewer backups continues to rise and the issue must be addressed. The FDDP was designed and initiated as a COMMUNITY SOLUTION TO A COMMUNITY PROBLEM. The FDDP is a greener, less expensive and more sustainable solution than all other alternatives proposed. If you choose not to participate in the FDDP when your neighborhood is selected for disconnection, you will be required to pay the costs of treating the storm water and ground water entering into the system from your home.
    The project is funded by sewer users that are within the Grand Rapids System utilizing the Strategic Water Quality Initiative Fund (SWQIF) of the State of Michigan.