Sewer backup claims comprise a significant portion of liability costs for cities and LMCIT. The most common reason for sewer backups is an obstruction in the sewer line. City liability often stems from maintenance and inspection issues. In addition, claims related to lift station design and construction problems are also costly.
Sanitary sewer incentive program
To help members reduce the overall cost and frequency of sanitary sewer claims, LMCIT created the sanitary sewer incentive program. It provides cities greater control over the mandatory, out-of-pocket deductibles they pay for claims and lawsuits related to sanitary sewer backups.
Member cities must meet certain criteria to qualify. Cities that do not meet the criteria have a minimum mandatory deductible of $2,500 for each sanitary sewer backup claim. Cities using a higher deductible are not directly affected, and cities using an aggregate limit are only impacted if the aggregate limit is reached and the maintenance deductible is less than $2,500.
Qualifying for the sanitary sewer incentive
To qualify for the incentive, cities must complete a sanitary sewer backup incentive questionnaire and return it to LMCIT. If the information provided confirms the city meets the criteria outlined below, it will not be subject to the higher mandatory deductible. Cities may qualify for the incentive at any time. If it occurs midterm, LMCIT will issue an endorsement removing the minimum deductible.
Cities must have the following to qualify for the incentive:
- A comprehensive map of the city’s sanitary sewer system.
Comprehensive maps that show the number and location of manholes, the number and location of service lines, line locations with the kind and diameter of pipe used, and the location of lift stations are things that cities are likely already collecting. It’s completely acceptable if your city has this information documented in the form of a hand-sketched drawing on a piece of paper; a map of the city with colored lines and locations written by hand; or a computer-aided design drawing that identifies every manhole, service line, and so on. Basically, if the city has a written map documenting these specific elements, as opposed to knowledge in an employee’s head, it meets the comprehensive map criteria.
- A documented program of regular inspection and maintenance.
To meet this part of the incentive, cities must have a written:
Cities need to have a documented program of regular inspection and maintenance performed on sanitary sewer lines and lift stations. This must include written policies and procedures, inspection records, and maintenance records. To qualify, cities must also have a record of sanitary sewer backups. The League has developed a toolkit to help cities qualify for this part of the incentive.
- Inspection and maintenance policy.
- Adequate inspection and maintenance records for sewer lines, manholes, problem areas, and response to backups.
- An operator properly certified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
This part of the incentive requires that an operator that has been properly certified by the MPCA is available at all times. Cities must have one of the following:
- Written documentation of appropriate operator licenses for their employees.
- Written contracts with a service company that documents the appropriate license.
- A written contract with another nearby city documenting a required level operator license is available if needed.