Lang: ‘Sump pump inspections going well’; Inspections close to finishing in Southeast Austin

Published 8:51 am Monday, August 20, 2018

Sump pump inspections in the Southeast area of Austin have been in progress throughout summer and Public Works Director Steven Lang believes the program is going well.

Steven Lang

“I think people have been, for the most part, pretty receptive to it,” he said. “They’ve been getting their inspections scheduled in a timely manner. Our inspector has been out there taking a look at them and determining compliance and non-compliance.”

The Austin City Council adopted the sump pump inspection ordinance in April as a measure to eliminate clean water from entering the sanitary sewer system and identify sump pump issues. The Southeast section of Austin was selected as the first to be subjected to the inspections.

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“We figured there are about 1,600 homes in this Southeast sector, and so far we’ve inspected 1,200 homes,” Lang said. “There are still letters going out to those remaining 400 that haven’t had the opportunity to schedule them yet.”

The city will send two letters, about three weeks apart, to property owners telling them to schedule inspections. If the property is a rental, the city sends a letter to the property owner and the occupant of the property. A couple weeks after the second letter is sent, a door hanger is placed on the door.

Lang said the cut off point is couple weeks after the door hanger is sent, at which point a monthly surcharge of $100 could be applied to the utility bill for failure to schedule an inspection within the allotted time.

“People are starting to realize there is a penalty involved with not getting registered, so it’s important they get registered and get that inspection taken care of,” he said.

“If they miss the cutoff that first month, it’s $100. Typically, they get their utility bill, see the $100, and schedule their inspection right away. As soon as they make their inspection, we cut it off. We don’t continue to charge it. If someone decides not to schedule their inspection, that $100 surcharge will continue month after month until they do make their inspection.”

Lang said that 64 property owners have been applied a surcharge. Of those, only about five have called to complain about it.

“Most I think realized they may have dropped the ball on it; maybe threw the letter away or didn’t focus on what some of those requirements were in the letter,” he said. “In the big picture of it, most people are recognizing they need to get it done. From this big program, if we’ve gone through and done 1,200 inspections and had five calls or complaints, I think that’s a pretty good percentage.”

Lang said between 10 and 11 percent of inspected homes have been found in non-compliance. Most have been found to have a direct discharge into the sanitary sewer, whether from a beaver system that directly discharges or a hose from the sump pump that goes into the sanitary sewer. Others did not have a pump in their pit or had a flexible hose instead of a rigid pipe from their pump going outside.

Property owners are responsible for fixing non-compliant sump pumps.

Lang said the inspection process has been fairly easy.

That’s how we’ve tried to make it; allowing people to schedule them on their terms and find what fits in the available time slots,” he said. “Our inspector does a good job; he’s clean and tries to make it as simple as possible and get in and out as quickly as he can.”

The next sector to be inspected will be Southwest Austin. Inspections there are scheduled to begin next year.

“It’s a big picture program,” Lang said. “Your sump pump or your beaver system that is dumping into the sanitary sewer may not be affecting you, but it may be affecting your downstream neighbor or your neighbors in your area. Residents need to know to take it seriously when they get letters; don’t put it off or disregard it because there are some ramifications with that $100 surcharge.”