City program “Keep Out the Rain” prevents basement flooding
By Jill Draper
Kansas City Water Services is almost midway through a six-year program to fix improper plumbing connections at homes and businesses in strategic parts of the city. Evaluation and repair crews are finishing up in Waldo, and now they’re focusing on some 7,500 properties in the area between Red Bridge Road and 150 Highway, from State Line Road east to Holmes.
The program, called Keep Out the Rain, is designed to look for gutter downspouts, foundation drains, sump pumps and other mechanisms that are directing rainwater into the city’s sanitary sewer system—a situation prohibited by city ordinance since 2015. This practice not only causes basement flooding; it’s also bad for the environment when clean water must be treated because it has mixed with sewage.
Participation in the program is voluntary, but most homeowners are happy to comply, says Becky Coleman, field office manager for Jacobs Engineering, one of several subcontractors handling the work. Inspections and repairs are free, she says, and can save a homeowner several thousands of dollars for changes that might be necessary in the future when a property is put on the market for sale.
There are four steps involved if a property is deemed eligible. First, a homeowner agrees to schedule a 15-minute sewer connection checkup with field evaluators. Second, if an improper connection is found, a licensed, pre-qualified plumber visits to discuss necessary repairs. Third, the work is performed, and fourth, inspectors verify that it was done correctly. Most repairs take half a day or less, Coleman says.
A common one involves installing a sump pump in basements with a “cut-out” or small concrete pit where foundation drain pipes are visible. Usually these pipes are channeling rainwater into the sewer system and should be replaced with a sump pump that collects the water and directs it onto the lawn or a downspout basin. Coleman says the sump pump might run frequently for houses in low spots, but on higher ground, it might run only two or three times a year.
Two-person teams—always a man and a woman dressed in gray shirts and orange vests, are now making rounds, knocking on doors and hanging door knob flyers to provide information about the program. After three attempts to reach a homeowner by door knocks, the team will walk through a property’s back yard to make an exterior evaluation.
Keep Out the Rain is part of a 25-year, $4.5 billion effort to reduce sewer overflows and improve the city’s water quality. According to Jennifer Rusch, public involvement specialist at Burns and McDonnell, which is helping manage the program, the city saves money by fixing improper plumbing connections on personal property. “If we do the same type of work on the street, it costs about twice as much,” she says. She notes 33,000 evaluations have been completed, with a goal of 70,000 by 2022.
To see if your home or business is eligible for an inspection or to find out more about the program, call 816-513-0200, email firstname.lastname@example.org or enter your address at kcmo.gov/rain.