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  • Nephi City approves policy addressing sewer backups

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By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

After spending some time working through the wording of the Nephi City Sewer Backup Policy, council members approved the document unanimously.

“Due to recent events, it has become necessary for the city to adopt a policy regarding sewer backups involving the city’s main line,” said Seth Atkinson, city administrator.

These are backups that do not occur in the lateral from a resident’s home or in cases involving negligence on the part of the city, he said.

A lateral sewer line is a privately-owned pipeline connecting a property to the publicly-owned main sewer line. It is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain and repair the lateral.

“These are claims that are deemed ‘no fault’ by the city’s insurance adjusters,” Atkinson said. “They are also claims that exceed the amount provided by the city’s insurance company that fall under the same criteria.”

The policy was discussed in concept at the last work session, he said.

The policy was recommended for approval by the city staff and can be revised as needed in the future.

“It is anticipated that the usage of this policy would be rare,” said Atkinson.

Nephi City Mainline Sewer Backup Policy, as adopted, would cover only the main line and would not cover the lateral lines leading from the mainline to the home.

In a previous work meeting, Kasey Wright, city attorney, also made it clear that the sewer disaster would be paid only as long as funds were available, said Kent Jones, city council member.

“On rare occasions, the city sewer system experiences a backup which may affect the homes of residents,” reads the policy. “These backups occur for various reasons and generally the city’s insurance company handles the claims that arise from these incidents.”

Atkinson said that those incidents were usually “no fault” in that the main sewer line would malfunction for one reason or another. Sometimes it was caused by a tree root ball. Typically it occurred in an old line.

Jones asked what the city’s insurance company thought of the policy.

“Our insurance company said that other communities had not thought about a sewer policy as well as we had,” Atkinson said.

Donald Ball, resident, asked what would happen if a resident had a sewer blockage that caused flooding of two rooms of the individual’s home. He wondered, if a local contractor had been hired and paid, could the homeower still collect under terms of the policy.

“It depends on what side the blockage occurred,” said Atkinson. “If it occurred on a lateral line it was the resident’s problem to clean up.”

City sewer department employees work to keep the main sewer lines clean and have a maintenance schedule they follow. Because of the maintenance work they do, the city fulfills the need to keep lines in good repair. Therefore, main line problems are rare.

“If an area has had problems, it becomes a ‘hot’ spot and it gets more attention,” Atkinson said.

As the council read through and reviewed the policy, they made changes that were listed on the document immediately. Because of that, the council was able to vote for the policy and adopt it at the end of the discussion.

One clarification Skip Worwood, council member, wanted included was the wording: “excluding customer lateral lines” which he wanted placed in brackets, making it clear that the policy only affected mainline backups.

“The policy is designed to provide direction to staff on how to handle mainline sewer backups (excluding customer lateral lines) that exceed the limits provided by the city’s insurance company under a claim deemed no fault and as funds are available from the sewer utility,” read the paragraph after the change was approved by the council and the wording was added to the policy.

The word “sole” was also added to the policy so that it would be clear that the administration would make final decisions. Any reimbursed funds will be at the sole discretion of the city administration.

Under a claim deemed “no fault,” the city’s insurance company provides a limited amount to those who may be affected by a sewer backup.

Infrequently, these claims exceed the limited amount provided by the insurance company. In such cases, homeowners must first submit a claim to their own homeowner’s insurance. The sewer utility may be able to assist with the payment of any deductibles.

In the event that a resident has a claim denied by their homeowner’s insurance or is not eligible for coverage on such a claim, the sewer utility may be able to reimburse 80 percent of the costs, above the amount provided by the city’s insurance company and associated with cleaning the damages caused by a sewer backup.

Homeowners may be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement of these costs if they are willing, at their own expense, to install a sewer backflow device.

Costs will be reimbursed based on submitted, valid invoices from legitimate businesses possessing a valid business license. These invoices will be reviewed by the city staff for reimbursement eligibility.

“When we issue the RFP,” said Glade Nielsen, mayor, “I would like to keep business in town whenever possible.”

The city will periodically issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) from disaster cleanup companies to ensure competitive pricing, said Atkinson. The winning proposal will be recommended to homeowners for damage cleanup services associated with a sewer backup.

“The way I read the policy, the disaster cleanup company would need to have a business license from Nephi City,” said Nathan Memmott, city council member.

Lisa Brough, city recorder/finance director, said that most disaster clean-up companies did not have a city business license. They worked in many different locations and offered specialized services.

“The funds will be a line item in the city sewer utility fund,” said Brough.