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Wheeling Officials Launch Backflow Prevention Program

WHEELING — Wheeling city officials continue efforts to improve the problem of stormwater backflow in certain neighborhoods in the city.

While the city’s long-term water pollution control program is bringing millions of dollars worth of improvements to the city’s infrastructure, officials have indicated that additional solutions can be achieved if property owners also take preventative action.

The new program will provide financial assistance for homeowners that participate.

Last month, the city began a pilot program for “downspout daylighting,” helping residents of the Clator area remove their downspouts from their sanitary sewer lines and redirecting rainwater from downspouts into the city’s stormwater system instead. Officials have said many homeowners who experience basement flooding after heavy rains are actually flooding themselves because flow from their downspouts are overwhelming the sewer lines from their homes, causing backflow.

On Tuesday, members of Wheeling City Council voted by majority to pass a resolution authorizing a new stormwater flooding prevention program. According to the resolution, the program will be carried out by the Wheeling Public Works Department, which will “review all backflow and/or downspout removal along with potential reimbursement applications” and related paperwork.

“The backflow preventer/downspout removal financial assistance program is designed to help city residents stop basement flooding,” Ward 4 Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis said.

This program will provide financial assistance for residents by offering funds to help with the removal of their downspouts from the sanitary sewers and for the installation of backflow preventers. In certain neighborhoods, there is a combined sanitary and stormwater system. However, major sewer separation projects have been taking place in areas throughout the city. Clator is one of those neighborhoods, and most recently, the area around Bedillion Lane in Woodsdale has seen work to separate the stormwater from the sanitary sewer systems.

“Financial assistance is one of the best ways the city can help our residents protect their homes from basement flooding,” Sklavounakis said. “I sought this position with the purpose of protecting and improving our neighborhoods, and hopefully this program will help further that purpose.”

Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said the city has been working for the past several years to take steps to reduce basement flooding some areas — including Woodsdale, Edgwood and other neighborhoods — experience after heavy rains.

Although the new stormwater flooding prevention program passed by a majority vote, not everyone on Wheeling City Council supported the measure on Tuesday. Councilman Dave Palmer, representing Ward 6, voted against the resolution.

“Backflow prevention systems work in certain situations, but not all,” Palmer said. “I feel this brings a false sense of hope to these residents. I don’t feel the city should be subsidizing backflow prevention systems.”

Palmer indicated that in some cases the problem in certain neighborhoods has a domino effect, and a property owner with a new backflow prevention system may be protecting their own home during heavy rains while inadvertently flooding their neighbor even worse in the process.

“I do support the downspout removal program,” Palmer added.

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