Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sewer Check Valves- Another Tool in Your Sewer Tool Kit

Joe Ingebrand 
From time to time we in loss control get questions as to how a city can install a lateral sewer line check-valve in cooperation with a home owner without increasing liability in future. Check valves have long been used in communities where flooding is common, where sanitary sewer systems become overwhelmed with storm water causing sewer back-ups. They are also a tool used as a temporary fix for property’s with a history of sewer back-ups, or those that are particularly vulnerable due to current infrastructure problems that are years away from being replaced.

In order to reduce liability associated with ownership and maintenance of sewer check valves, the city should consider the following:
  • Consult the city engineer for location and installation guidance,
  • Use a written agreement between the property owner and the city, and 
  • Work with the City Attorney to develop a policy and an agreement defining when, where, and how they can be used and who is responsible for them after installation.
See a Model Policy and Model Agreement below.  For an electronic copy of these documents please contact  your loss control consultant or Joe Ingebrand at jingebrand@berkleyrisk.com . 


Sewer Backflow Check Valves

On occasion the City may purchase and install a sewer backflow check valve (“check valve”) at certain properties for the purpose of preventing sanitary sewer backups.  In general, this action will be reserved for properties that have had multiple and/or severe sanitary sewer backups.

The City may recommend this action to a property owner or the request for a check valve may come from a property owner.  The determination of which properties qualify for a City-provided check valve will be made by the City on a case-by-case basis.  Items to be considered include, but are not limited to:
  • The number and severity of sanitary sewer backups that have occurred at the property.
  • The cause of the sewer back up and the location of any blockages.
  • The type of building and contents of the building located on the property.
  • Pending sanitary sewer system improvements that would improve service to the property.
  • Sanitary sewer system improvements that have already taken place to improve service to the property.
  • Before a check valve will be provided, both the City and the property owner must enter into an agreement regarding the purchase, installation and follow up care for a check valve.

The City may hire a contractor to carry out the installation of a check valve.

The purchase and installation of a check valve for one property does not entitle another property owner to the same service.  Neither this policy nor the practice described herein confers rights on another property owner.

The City will evaluate this policy and practice on an ongoing basis and may discontinue the provision of check valves to property owners at any time.
             THIS AGREEMENT is made this _____ day of                               , 20___, by and between the City of ________________, a Minnesota municipal corporation (the “City”) and ___________________________________________________, owner(s) of the property located at __________________________________________ (the “Property Owner”) (collectively referred to as the Parties”).
WHEREAS, one or more sanitary sewer backups have occurred at this property; and
WHEREAS, the Parties want to take reasonable action to prevent future sanitary sewer backups at this property; and
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the promises contained herein, the Parties hereby agree to the following:
Sewer backflow check valve:  A valve that isolates the property’s plumbing from the public sanitary sewer in the street.  The check valve includes a flapper that shuts when water level in the public sewer line is high enough to flow back into the house.
 1.  The City will provide a sewer backflow check valve for the property located at ____________________________________ (the “Property”).
 2.  The City will install or arrange for the installation of the sewer backflow check valve at the Property.
3.  If there is a cost to the Property Owner associated with the purchase or installation of the check valve the details should be reflected here:
4.  The Property Owner is responsible for all maintenance, inspection, repair, and replacement of the sewer backflow check valve following installation. 
5.  The Property Owner understands that while a sewer backflow check valve offers protection against sanitary sewer backups, it is not foolproof.  Even with a sewer backflow check valve, sanitary sewer backups may sometimes occur. 
6.  This Agreement will be in effect for the time Property Owner resides at the Property.  The Property Owner may not assign this Agreement to any subsequent owner of the Property.
7.  Prior to installment of the sewer backflow check valve, this Agreement may be terminated by either party by giving written notice to the other party.  
1.  City’s Insurance.  The City shall maintain property and liability coverage with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust under standard LMCIT liability coverage forms.   
 2.  Damage to Property.  The City/the City’s contractor shall be responsible for any damages to the Property occurring during the installation of the sewer backflow check valve, to the extent that the negligence of the City/the City’s contractor causes damage to the Property,  subject to any protections the City is entitled to under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 466 or other laws.
3.  Liability of City.  Provision and installation of a sewer backup check valve at this Property is not an admission of liability on the part of the City for any past or future sewer backups.
4.  Sewer Backup Claims.  Nothing in this agreement prevents the Property Owner from filing future claims with the City in the event of a sanitary sewer backup.
1.  Entire Agreement.  This Agreement supersedes any prior or contemporaneous representations or agreements, whether written or oral, between the Parties and contains the entire agreement. 
 2.  Amendments.  Any modification or amendment to this Agreement shall require a written agreement signed by both Parties.
 3.  Governing Law.  This Agreement shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota.
 4.  Captions.  Captions or headings contained in this Agreement are included for convenience only and form no part of the agreement between the Parties.
 5.  Waivers.  The waiver by either party of any breach or failure to comply with any provision of this Agreement by the other party shall not be construed as, or constitute a continuing waiver of such provision or a waiver of any other breach of or failure to comply with any other provision of this Agreement.
 6.  Savings Clause.  If any court finds any portion of this Agreement to be contrary to law or invalid, the remainder of the Agreement will remain in full force and effect.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties caused this Agreement to be approved.

CITY OF _______________, MINNESOTA           PROPERTY OWNER(S)
BY:    __________________           BY:  _________________                                                             
            Its Mayor                                                                   
AND:___________________         AND: _________________                                                            
            Its City Clerk                         


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Air Advisory in State – What This Means When Working Outdoors

We’ve all noticed the haze and gloomy air hanging around this past week.  This haze is caused by over 180 fires blazing in British Columbia, Canada. 

There are over 2 million acres of wildfires raging across Canada and into Alaska.  Currently there is no real end in sight.  The smoke from these fires has risen to over 20,000 feet which then allows the jet stream to act as a highway, transporting the smoke across the country. 

The state that has felt the largest impact is Minnesota, however there have been health advisories issued across the Western and Midwestern parts of the United States.  The reason that Minnesota is so heavily impacted is due to the East/Southeast direction of wind movement, which has put us directly in the line of “fire”, so to speak.  

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a statewide Air Advisory on Monday, which indicated that the northern two-thirds of the state should take extra precautions due to the reduced air quality from the smoke infiltration. What does this mean?
Exposure to the high level of fine particles has previously been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.  There is a risk of exacerbation with pre-existing health conditions, which can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue.

The level of fine particulate in the air on Monday was unhealthy for anyone.  Those individuals that are sensitive to fine particles (pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, elderly, children, and individuals who are under heavy or extended exertion are advised to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and reduce exposure to air pollution (heavy duty vehicle exhaust, wood fires, candles).
Those in the “at risk” or higher risk groups should check the Air Quality Index prior to vigorous activity being resumed.  For current air quality conditions visit the Air Quality Index page.

By Tara Bursey, Loss Control Consultant