Aberdeen residents who need to install or improve a sump pump system have a choice of two programs -- one of them a grant, the other a loan -- to help pay for them.
The sump pump work could be covered under a home rehab grant program offered by Homes Are Possible Inc. Those grants, which total up to $6,000 each, are available to low- and moderate-income families.
The loan, with interest of 3 percent, is available from the city of Aberdeen. Repayment of a sump pump compliance loan would be over a 20-month period. The charges, each an equal amount, will be added to the city’s utility bill.
Under the city's sump pump compliance loan program, loans of up to $1,000 are available. The money can be used for any part of a sump pump system, including a connection, pipes and valves.
People who do the work themselves are asked to bring in store receipts. A city inspector will check the installation to make sure it's been done correctly and that the money is being used for the purpose for which it’s intended. The resident will be reimbursed for the cost of the materials.
People also may have a licensed plumbing contractor do the work. The homeowner will need to bring the invoice from the plumbing contractor to the city. The plumbing contractor will be reimbursed directly for materials and labor, assuming it's not more than $1,000.
The city plans to inspect a portion of the city's sump pumps each year under an ordinance recently passed by the City Council. Five percent of the city's sump-pump connections will be inspected each year by city employees. A letter will be sent to Aberdeen residents soon, telling them about the program. The sump-pump program will make sure that water from sump pumps is being discharged properly. The inspections will begin in mid- to late May and run through the summer, said city manager Lynn Lander.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is requiring the city to begin the sump-pump inspection program. It is one of the steps that address a notice of violation and order for compliance the city received in March 2012. The violation stemmed from untreated sanitary sewer discharges in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The city has already taken other steps to fulfill the order for compliance, including work on Kline Street.
The program is designed to eliminate excess flows from sump pumps.
During the winter months, Aberdeen homeowners and businesses are allowed to discharge sump-pump water into the sanitary sewer system. From the spring to November, the city recommends that discharges go to the curb or into the yard. The dates vary depending on the weather. This year, the city asks that people start pumping outdoors on Wednesday.
The city is trying to assist Aberdeen residents who aren't complying with the sump-pump rules, Lander said.
Officials believe that a majority of Aberdeen residents already follow the seasonal rules. But the city knows that some people have never pumped water outside. Because “it's a compliance issue from the state, we're trying to assist those that aren't complying to help us meet our mandate,” Lander said.
For people who are of limited means, the city doesn't want to have their finances stand in the way of compliance and doing the right thing, said city attorney Adam Altman.
The city knows that if it costs $500 to pay a plumber to fix a sump pump, “for people on a limited income or a fixed income, that's a lot of money,” he said.
The city hopes to make the inspection program as efficient and inobtrusive as possible, Altman said.
If a building inspector has to visit a home or business for another reason, he will do the sump-pump inspection at the same time.
City employees are allowed to go inside a home as part of the agreement that water and sewer customers have with the city, Altman said.
As part of a resident’s decision to buy city water, it's implied that the resident gives the city the authority to inspect the meter at a reasonable time and follow all rules regarding water, Altman said. If people want to connect to the city's sewer system, the homeowner agrees to let city employees inspect the sump pump.
If people don't want to allow a city inspector into their homes, they may have a certified plumber check their sump pumps instead, Lander said.
He said that if someone is “growing marijuana downstairs and they have a good friend that doesn't care about marijuana and is a certified plumber, he can go in and do the inspection and we'll never know about it.” Lander admitted that was an extreme example.
Altman said the HAPI program is better than the city's program, because it's a grant.
“If they are income-qualified, we're going to encourage them to go through the HAPI program, just because it's better for them,” Altman said.
HAPI director Jeff Mitchell said there are strings attached to the HAPI grant. For one thing, the person's home would be inspected.
To receive the grant, the income limit is $31,900 for a household of one or two and $36,680 for a household of three or more. For information, call HAPI at 605-225-4274 or visit www.homesarepossible.org.
The city is not opposed to people discharging water into the sanitary sewer in the winter. But the city needs to reduce flows from sump pumps in the summer, Lander said.
The city's program is about asking for cooperation and educating the public, Lander said. If improvements aren’t made, residents won't be allowed to discharge the water into the sanitary sewer system at all.
If people cooperate, they will continue to be able to pump into the system during the winter, he said.