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Golden Valley's Inflow/Infiltration Conundrum

As of January 1, 2007, Golden Valley requires that all homes that are sold in the city complete a “Time of Sale” inspection of the home’s sanitary sewer and sump pump connections for possible I/I (Inflow and Infiltration) problems and then requires the homeowner to correct any defficiencies before closing.  This was brought about by a new surcharge that the Metropolitan Council will start issuing cities with excessive “clear water” inflow during rain events. Today I had the opportunity to meet with some of my fellow Realtors and City of Golden Valley staff to discuss the issue.

I/I Background

Inflow and Infiltration is the additional water that enters the sanitary sewer from sources other than our home’s sinks, showers, and toilets.  This is mostly found after excessive rainfalls and can lead to DRAMATIC increases in the water flowing through the sanitary sewer, resulting in potential sewer backups and an increased danger of overflowing the wastewater treatment plants, which must then discharge untreated water into our rivers and lakes.  To reduce this problem and try to slow down the future capacity requirements for wastewater treatment, the Metropolitan Council has decided to fine cities with excessive inflows after rain events.  Golden Valley’s estimated fee for 2007 stands at $380,000, but it could be lower or significantly higher based on the actual inflow that is metered.

This animation from the City of Golden Valley shows just one of the problems contributing to clear water Inflow and Infiltration, sump pumps.  While this is easy to look for, the city has gone a step further to require video review of the sewer line from the main stack in the house out to the curb to search for foundation drains that may be directly connected, as well as damaged sewer pipe that allows excessive leakage of rainwater into the sewer system.

Golden Valley’s Solution to the Problem

For several years Golden Valley has been going after the “low hanging fruit” in terms of I/I: things like checking sump pump connections, replacing bad sewer lines in the streets, etc.  The problem is this isn’t enough, which necessitates an inspection and certification program.  Many cities require some kind of inspection at time of sale and many cities are starting I/I inspections, so this isn’t anything for big news in general. Where the problem lies is in the implementation of this inspection problems. 

Please take a moment to read the code.

I’ve read this many times, but only today did I notice a HUGE problem with the text of the code: in Subdivision 1 it says that a “certificate of compliance” must be issued by the City before a home can be offered for sale.  In Subdivision 2-A, it says that only the  application for the compliance inspection and certificate be made before offering the home for sale. 

So here we have City code that is contradictory…. so which do we follow?  For now it is my understanding that we must get the certificate before offering the home for sale. From time of application to the actual issuance of a certificate, assuming compliance, it is likely to be a 1-3 week timeframe, depending on the workload of the inspections department, which will be largely based off of the time of year (spring and summer will be the slowest because they are the busiest for home sales).  If you do have problems, at this time those repairs have to be completed and the sewer reinspected before listing the home for sale.

The final concern is that this process only affects homes listed for sale, as well as homes requesting plumbing permits.  This means only a very small amount of the homes in the city will be inspected for years to come and at substantially higher cost to both the city and the homeowners than if it were done on a block by block basis through the city.

While no numbers are currently available from the City, based off of what I heard today, approximately 1/3 of homes are failing the inspection, with repairs that could run in the hundreds to $10,000, depending on the problem and the requirements for compliance.  That’s quite a big unknown!  Since these repairs are all done individually for each homeowner, much of the cost is simply getting the equipment and people out to the job site.

This is an issue that must be addressed, but it could be addressed better. As there are many other cities that are out of compliance, this issue will continue to gain attention and some other cities may follow Golden Valley’s lead.  If they do, I hope they’ll keep these items in mind.

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  1. [...] background on the problem, please see my previous articles: Golden Valley’s Inflow/Infiltration Conundrum and Golden Valley Revises I/I Inspection Requirements.  For more info on the I/I issue metro [...]

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