The City of Alexandria is providing information about drainage and flooding issues, following a season of unusually heavy rainfall. Over the past 90 days, Alexandria has received more than half of the annual average precipitation for this area. The current forecast is calling for additional rain over the next few days. Multiple storms have produced rainfall faster than storm drains could handle flow, resulting in some ground flooding and sewer backups.
The City has worked to resolve issues as soon as possible when they involve City infrastructure. However, many issues on private property are simply the result of too much rain. The City urges residents to take necessary precautions to prevent flooding and sewer backups when possible.
If untreated sewage discharges from the sanitary sewer system, report it immediately by calling 703.746.HELP (4357). Avoid contact with overflow discharges, and keep people and pets away.
- Drainage problems may include roadway or structural flooding, clogged or failing underground pipes and culverts, stream bank erosion or stormwater pollution affecting a stream.
- Help prevent drainage problems by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, sump pumps are working properly, grading slopes away from homes and buildings, and outdoor driveway and stairwell drains are free of debris and possible blockages.
- If rainwater is draining from an adjacent property, call 703.746.HELP (4357) and a City inspector will investigate.
- Sewer backups can be caused by pipe failures; blockages (e.g., grease, rocks, sticks, toys); excessive flows that exceed system capacity (typically due to significant rainfall); damage by contractors; power or mechanical failures at sewer pump stations; and settlement or movement of the soil adjacent to the pipe.
- To prevent a sewage backup during a storm: 1) Install a backflow preventer and ensure that it is in working order and closed as necessary; 2) Stuff a rag, softball or other material into floor drains to stop the flow into basements; 3) Cover floor drains with mats and weigh them down; 4) Place a heavy object on the closed cover of basement toilets; 5) Restrict the use of plumbing as much as possible until rains subside, including dish and clothes washers, showers and toilets.
- Wear waterproof boots and gloves to prevent exposure to contaminated water. After the rain stops, if sewage has come through a floor or plumbing drain, open the drain to allow as much water to drain out as possible. Use buckets, a sump pump or other means to remove as much of the contaminated water as possible.
- If the backup occurs only when facilities (such as toilet, tub, washer or sinks) are used, a plumber may be needed. If sewage backs up when facilities are not in use, there may be a problem with the City’s sewer line.
- If an inspector determines that the City’s sewer line is operating normally and indications are that a private building sewer lateral is the cause of a sewer backup, the inspector will recommend contacting a plumber. Residents and businesses are responsible for backups caused in private sewer lines, and for the installation, maintenance and inspection of backwater valves. Check insurance policies to determine if damages related to sewage backups or water damages are covered. This type of coverage may be an optional coverage and can generally be added to a policy if requested. The cost for this optional coverage is inexpensive, and it is advised that property owners with below-grade fixtures investigate this coverage.
For more information about flooding, visit alexandriava.gov/Flooding.