Workshop Meeting of its Board on Thursday, February 29, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place at 210 George Street, Reading, PA 19605.

The Muhlenberg Township Authority is proud to offer a reimbursement program to financially assist eligible residential customers in reducing the potential for sewer backups into their basements. The Property Owner Assistance Program for Basement Backup Protection (the “Program”) has been made possible by the MTA as a policy initiative approved by the Authority Board on October 5, 2023.

The MTA is responsible for maintaining sewer mains, manholes, pump stations and force mains that form the entire sanitary sewer collection system. Maintenance of sewer service lines from the MTA-owned system to the property owner's home is the responsibility of the property owner. The MTA expends significant resources, through preventive maintenance programs and scheduled upgrades and improvements, to keep the sewer system operational and in a good state of repair. Occasionally, however, conditions develop beyond the MTA's control, such as uncontrolled and excess stormwater flows from the Township's stormwater collection system, that may cause sewage to back up into a residence. This issue is potentially exacerbated by homes that may be located in the flood-plain or low-lying areas prone to flooding.

The MTA recognizes the hardship associated with sewer backups. It is therefore the intent of this policy initiative and Program of the MTA to provide action, irrespective of what may have caused the backup, for financial reimbursement to affected residential property owner(s) in an effort to reduce the chance for a future occurrence. The installation of a sewer backflow valve is one such preventative measure.

How the Program Works

MTA residential sewer customers who have either: (i) experienced a sewer backup within a prescribed timeframe; or (ii) own a home situate in a flood-prone or flood-plain area designated by the MTA, can apply to receive full or partial reimbursement, up to certain maximum dollar figure, for the installation of a backflow prevention valve on the customer's side of the sewer line, either exterior to or in the interior of the home.

If the Application is approved, the MTA will reimburse the customer the contracted amount, up to a maximum dollar value of $2,500 for interior installation or $5,000 for exterior installation, upon completion of the work and submission by the customer of proof of payment to the contractor.

Once the backflow valve is installed, the property owner is solely responsible for the cost of maintenance of the valve, and for ensuring that the valve is at all times operational. The MTA's only role in this Program is to provide for the cost of reimbursement, up to a maximum dollar amount.

Please note that this Program is also being offered retroactively to property owners who have already hired a licensed plumber/contractor to have this work done, so long as either the home is located in a flood-prone/flood-plain area or the work was completed within 120 days of a backup event, and the customer otherwise meets all eligibility and application requirements.

The Program does not apply to reimbursement for loss or damage for personal property.

Eligibility & How to Apply for Reimbursement

To be eligible for this Program, individuals must own property within MTA's service area and be an MTA residential sewer customer. The sewer backup must have resulted from a backup of sewage from the MTA's sanitary sewer system lines, and not caused by the fault or negligence of the customer. In addition, the MTA customer must have either: (i) experienced a sewer backup within the past 120 days; or (ii) own a home in a flood-prone or flood-plain area designated by the MTA (Note: Flood-prone and flood-plain areas are designated by the MTA, in its sole discretion, and is subject to change. Customers may view a map of current designated flood-prone and flood-plain areas).

Prior to applying for a reimbursement, the property owner will need to obtain a proposal from a licensed plumber/contractor to perform the work, per MTA specifications (see https://www.muhlenberg.org/documents) and within any applicable Muhlenberg Township codes. The homeowner will then submit an Application to the MTA, with the requisite paperwork, for review and approval. The homeowner additionally agrees to work with the MTA to submit any additional paperwork reasonably necessary for the MTA to review and process the Application.

Eligible property owners can complete and submit the Basement Backup Protection Application after receipt of a proposal from a licensed plumber/contractor, but before the work has been completed. Submission of an application after the work has been completed is at your own risk – there is no guarantee of eligibility or approval.

Required attachments to the Application include:

  • Proof of property ownership
  • Proof of sewer backup, if applicable
  • An itemized project invoice from a licensed contractor/plumber

If the Application is approved, the MTA will reimburse the customer the contracted amount, up to a maximum dollar value depending on the location of the valve. Payment will be made to the property owner once the following documentation is submitted:

  • Proof of payment to the licensed contractor/plumber
  • Proof of Township permit, if applicable (customer is responsible for any permit fees)
  • Visual inspection by MTA, if applicable
Printed copies of the Application can also be picked up at the offices of the MTA, 2840 Kutztown Road, Reading, PA 19605.

Understanding the Causes of Sewer Backups & Solutions

While installing a backflow prevention valve can greatly reduce the chance of basement sewer backups, it's important for property owners to understand that no solution is completely fail-safe. It's also important to note that there may be several different approaches/solutions, based on a property's layout, for protecting the basement from backups. Property owners are encouraged to talk with a licensed plumber/contractor to determine the best approach for their specific property.

Getting a Proposal

It's advisable to get multiple proposals prior to hiring a licensed plumber/contractor. A good proposal will:

  • Explain the solution and how it will look
  • Outline your basement sewer connections
  • Discuss maintenance issues
  • Disclose all related costs, including parts and labor, and permit fees

Questions

Prospective applicants with questions about the MTA's application process or the Program can contact the MTA at 610-929-4709. For questions related to plumbing permits/inspections, applicants can call the Township of Muhlenberg at 610-929-4727.

FAQ's

  1. What is the Property Owner Assistance Program for Basement Backup Protection?

    This Program was developed to financially assist MTA customers with the professional installation of a backflow prevention valve to reduce the potential for sewer backups into basements. This Program and policy initiative was started to ease the burden to MTA customers of sewer backups that occur through no fault of the customer or of the MTA.

  2. Who is eligible for the program?

    This program is open to MTA residential customers who, through no fault of their own, either: (i) experienced a sewer backup from sewer lines owned by the MTA within the past 120 days; or (ii) own a home in a designated flood-prone or flood-plain area.

  3. What is the cost to the property owner?

    The MTA will reimburse the customer 100% percent of the total cost, up to a maximum of $2,500 for interior installation and up to a maximum of $5,000 for exterior installation, inclusive of any Township permit or inspection fees. The property owner will be responsible for all additional costs.

  4. How does the reimbursement program work?

    Prior to applying for a reimbursement, the property owner will need to find a licensed plumber/contractor to provide a proposal for installation of a sewer backflow valve in accordance with MTA specifications (see https://www.muhlenberg.org/documents).. The customer must then submit an Application to the MTA for review and approval. Eligible property owners will need to include the following required attachments with their Application: (i) proof of property ownership; (ii) proof of sewer backup; and (iii) an itemized project invoice from the licensed contractor/plumber. If approved, and upon proof the installation is complete and meets all requirements, the MTA will agree to reimburse the customer the amount of the contracted cost, up to a maximum dollar amount depending on where the valve is installed, inclusive of any Township permit fees. The MTA may also require a visual inspection prior to reimbursement.

    Submission of an Application after the work has been completed, but before the Application is approved is at your own risk – there is no guarantee of eligibility or approval.

    This Program is also being offered retroactively to property owners who have already hired a licensed plumber/contractor to have this work done, so long as either the home is located in a flood-prone/flood-plain area or the work was completed within 120 days of a backup event, and the customer otherwise meets all eligibility and application requirements.

    The Program does not apply to reimbursement for loss or damage for personal property.

  5. Will a backflow prevention valve fix the flooding problem in my basement?

    Depending on the property's layout and issues, there are various different approaches that may be available to protect the basement. If the flooding issue is caused by water that seeps through the basement walls, windows or floors during heavy rains, installation of a backflow prevention valve will not help with that problem as it is not related to the MTA's sanitary sewer system. Property owners are encouraged to talk with a licensed plumber to determine the best approach for their property.

  6. What happens if I get another sewer backup after the valve is installed?

    While these improvements greatly reduce the chance of a backup in your basement, no solution is completely fail-safe. Mechanical equipment can fail, but ongoing maintenance will help prevent this. The MTA does not guarantee the success of the backup prevention valve, or that you will not experience a future backup event. One of the main causes of sewer backups is excess and uncontrolled stormwater flows, which infiltrates MTA's sewer system. The MTA has no control over stormwater – that is a Township issue. Until stormwater management is improved, the problem may persist. The backflow valve is designed as a preventive measure to guard against these unforeseen issues.

  7. Am I responsible for maintaining the device that is installed?

    Yes, the property owner is solely responsible for the maintenance of the device installed, and for removal and replacement. The MTA's only role in this Program is to offer financial reimbursement to the homeowner for installation of a backflow prevention valve.

  8. Is this program available for businesses or commercial properties?

    No.

  9. Where can I find the Application for this program?

    The Application is available here, and printed copies of the Application are available at the offices of the MTA, 2840 Kutztown Road, Temple, PA 19605. Instructions for how to submit the Application and all required attachments can be found on the Application and on this MTA website.

  10. What if I have questions about this program?

    Prospective applicants with questions about the MTA's Application process and Program can contact the MTA at 610-929-4709. For questions related to plumbing permits/inspections, applicants can call the Township of Muhlenberg at 610-929-4727.

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