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Heavy rain leads to backups in Lewiston basements

Heavy rain Friday overwhelmed sanitary sewers in parts of the town and village of Lewiston, causing backups of water into basements and up drain pipes into people's sinks.

An official at the wastewater treatment plant in the town said the volume of rain resulted in surface water getting into the sewage system. Despite some discoloration of the water coming up through people's sump pumps and drain pipes, it is mostly rainwater coming from the sanitary sewers, said Jeff Ritter, chief operator at the sewage treatment plant and water pollution control center.

"We're getting calls off the hook here, from the top of the (Niagara) escarpment all the way down to the Town of Porter," said Ritter.

"We just have more water than can escape fast enough. Water is not supposed to be in the sanitary sewer lines. However, through illegal sump pump connections and cracks and things in the pipes and water pooling up in people's front yards, water ends up going down the clean-out stacks and it ends up just fully charging the sewer system," Ritter said.

Ritter said he was unable to determine how many homes were affected Friday.

"I do know that, if your house was built before a certain time, they have the sewer laterals go underneath their basement slabs. Those houses are a lot more susceptible," Ritter said.

Some homeowners were apparently forced to take matters into their own hands, which is what town officials were advising them to do.

"We've been telling them that they need to call a plumber and find a way to isolate the flow from coming in. All it takes sometimes, is if people a valve in, all they have to do is close the valve and wait for the water to recede," said Ritter.

He said the problem may have been exacerbated in cases where residents have their sump pumps illegally connected to the sanitary sewers.

"The sump pump is supposed to go to the storm sewer," Ritter said.

He said the town's sewer system has cracks in it and compromised spots where ground water can get in, especially in cases where there has been heavy rainfall.

"There's no stopping it. You can have a brand new sewer system with only five houses hooked into it, if you have this much water come down, you're going to get flooded," Ritter said.

The town of Porter, village of Youngstown, and the village and town of Lewiston contribute to the sewage treatment plant in the town. Each municipality has its own sanitary sewer system.

"This also has to do with our storm sewers. Our storm sewers have not been able to convey the water fast enough. That's why streets get flooded out. Even when the grates are clear, the water just has nowhere else to go," Ritter said.

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