Sewer insurance program not sanctioned by the City of Springfield

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Sewer repairs on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.

Sewer repairs on private property are the responsibility of the property owner.

Springfield residents may have received a letter from American Water Resources (AWC) of Missouri, informing them of their sewer service line maintenance responsibility. The letters offers an insurance product called “The Sewer Line Protection Program,” that, if purchased, will provide coverage for private sewer lateral repair.

While it is true that property owners are responsible for the proper functioning of the private sewer lateral, the City of Springfield is not requiring citizens to purchase a private lateral insurance policy.

Citizens may have heard about the the City of Springfield’s Private Sewer Repair Program.

This City program provides free plumbing evaluations and no-cost repairs to fix improper connections to the City’s sanitary sewer system. The goal of the Private Sewer Repair Program is to prevent rainwater from entering and overwhelming the City’s sewer system, causing sewage to back up into homes and enter streams and lakes. The Private Sewer Repair Project is not in any way related to AWC’s “Sewer Line Protection Program.”

The City has sent multiple letters to American Resources of Missouri asking the company to make it clear in its letter to Springfield citizens that its insurance product is not a City-sponsored program and has nothing to do with work performed as part of the Private Sewer Repair Program.

“We have sent a communication to American Water Resources of Missouri telling them that the City does not want them to include any reference or innuendo that the City of Springfield is partnering, approving or condoning the sale of the private lateral insurance product,” says Steve Meyer, City of Springfield Environmental Services director.

For more information, contact: Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, 417-864-1009 (office) | 417-380-3352 (cell), cscott@springfieldmo.gov.

Here are five ways to help avoid becoming the victim to a scam or unnecessary service for your sewer or drain:

1. Remember the basics: Remember to check the background of your sewer cleaner with organizations like the Better Business Bureau. If someone is using fear of costly sewer overflow damage (which in most cases can be avoided by immediately stopping water usage in the house because if there is a stoppage in the pipe the water that is overflowing is coming from inside the house) or high pressure sales techniques, take a step back and get a second opinion.

2. Know how to spot the wrong questions: Some business owners prey upon the elderly and widowed. There are companies that train their employees on how to spot a susceptible candidate. They are taught to ask questions like, “Is your husband at home?” or “Are you divorced?” When they get the answer they are looking for they descend upon their prey.

3. Watch out for “evidence”: Employees of dishonest company owners are taught techniques to convince homeowners that they have worse problems than they actually have. Some will travel in pairs and while one is upstairs getting information about the customer the other is down stairs spreading dirt in specific spots that they say indicate the sewer pipe is broken and forcing the dirt up through the concrete.

This may seem silly to an expert in the field since there is seldom enough pressure in a drain line (even one with backpressure due to a clog) to force water through a concrete slab and definitely would never have enough force to send dirt through a solid slab.

Others carry bags of rocks with them and put them in the house traps or cleanouts in the house so they are assured future stoppages in the line. After the second or third stoppage they show the homeowner the rocks they “removed” from their pipe and tell them the pipe must be damaged and needs to be jetted and video inspected.

4. Make sure you’re not watching a rerun:  Video inspections and jetting can be valuable tools for our industry if used properly, but when put in unscrupulous hands can cause people misery.

Video cameras can be useful in locating buried septic systems or inspecting the condition of buried pipes to determine proper maintenance schedules or the extent of necessary repairs. When the corrupt salesperson takes control of the camera he may play a pre-taped inspection of a pipe in very bad condition and tell you it is your pipe.

Have the technician video tape something distinguishable in your house by your sewer cleanout to prove the camera is recording before he begins. High pressure sewer jets are great at removing grease buildups or sand in the line but are too often sold to every customer with a costly price tag and told it is necessary. Usually a good snaking with an electric rotating cable will do the job just as well.

5. A few notes about liners: Another popular product sewer cleaners are selling these days are liners. Liners are a cloth tube covered on one side with a layer of PVC that is embedded with a two part epoxy resin and then usually blown into the existing pipe.

There are several problems with these devices. Firstly, they tend to cost as much as excavating the old pipe and installing a new pipe. The sales team pitches that the best thing about these units are that you don’t disturb landscaping. This is true but you also don’t get a new pipe and landscaping usually will be back to its original condition in less than a year.

Secondly, these liners have been banned here in New York City, the reason being that they reduce the inside diameter of the existing pipe. Liners are also only usable if the pipe is still rounded since they form to the existing pipes shape, so if a pipe is crushed a liner will not be feasible. Last of all there have been reports of some liners failing and collapsing after a few years of service.


George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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