LAKE COMO, NJ — This summer’s heavy rains revealed that the illegal use of sump pumps by Lake Como residents is placing a strain on the borough’s sanitary sewer system.

In response, the borough council is looking to crack down on the practice by identifying those property owners with sump pumps that connect directly to their sanitary sewer line, rather than to the stormwater system.

At the governing body’s September 18 workshop session, Public Works Superintendent Brendan Maas reported that during the last substantial rainfall in August, the situation caused manhole covers to overflow nonstop for as long as three days in certain areas of the borough — and that was after the rain had stopped.

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Because the clean rainwater was being pumped with the wastewater to the Southern Monmouth Regional Sewerage Authority’s treatment plant, the amount of total water going through the sanitary sewer system more than doubled — from 300,000 to some 750,000 gallons, he said.

As a result, the borough can expect a substantially higher wastewater treatment bill, as it now must pay for treating clean water that was mixed with sewer water, according to officials.

The borough council is now considering taking steps that would allow officials to conduct inspections of homes that are suspected of having illegal sump pump hook-ups. If a homeowner is found to have an improper sump pump connection, they would be given a certain amount of time to remedy the situation.

While there currently is an ordinance on the books that prohibits sump pumps from being connected to the sanitary sewer system, there is no formal mechanism in place to determine where these pumps are being operated.

Lake Como Borough Clerk/Administrator Louise Mekosh pointed out that before the borough homes became equipped with remote water meter readers, public works employees needed to enter homes to read meters, providing them with the opportunity to actually see how sump were connected and to alert residents if they were hooked up incorrectly.

“Many people may not even know their sump pump is illegally connected to the sanitary sewer system,” she said.

For homeowners with illegal sump pumps, they also may have a price to pay the next time heavy rains hit the borough.  Not only are the sanitary sewerage pipes too small for large amounts of stormwater, the extra high flow of water could cause the pipes to overfill and become clogged with debris that could back up into their homes.

For a free sump pump inspection, Lake Como residents can call the public works department at 732-681-3393 or email bmaas@boro.lake-como.nj.us.

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