Evanston city staff will ask aldermen tonight to ban sump pumps that discharge into the city’s sewer system.

A staff memo says the change would reduce flooding from sewer backups during storms. But it provides no estimate of the number of such connections in the city or what it would cost for residents to rework their sump pump installations, which until now have been legal.

Sump pump connections to the sewers are believed to be common where houses are on narrow lots, as in much of Evanston, which provide little space for water to flow away from a house without spilling onto a neighboring lot.

They also tend to be necessary where, as in Evanston, most homes are built on former swampland.

Just last June the city showed off a home at 1733 Leland Ave., newly rehabilitated under the city’s federal neighobrhood stabilization grant program, that includes a newly installed sump pump plumbed to flow into the sewer system.

City taxpayers have been billed for over $175 million for construction of a relief sewer system in Evanston over the past two decades, which city officials say has reduced basement flooding in most areas to occur less than once every 100 years.

The ordinance to be considered tonight would let the city manager provide waivers of the sump pump connection rules, but it provides no standards for granting such waivers and provides no indication of whether existing installations might be permitted to continue.

Top: The mayor welcomes visitors in June to the newly rehabbed home on Leland that has its sump pump connected to the sewer system.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. how exactly would this work?

    Where would my sump pump need to drain to?  my yard?  where it will immedaitely drain back into the sump pum and into the sewage sytem via the sewers (after my lot floods)?  I don't understand how this could possibly work (but this is not my area of expertise).  Help me understand if you know, please.

  2. Sump Pump Drainage

    I thought this expensive Deep Tunnel Project was supposed to incread our sewer flow. What happened? Does the City expect all homeowners to change sump pumps? Maybe we should have them drain into the City streets so they go into storm sewers instead of sanitary sewers–or didn't the city fix the combined system yet either???

  3. Water to go to relief storm sewer–not sanitary sewer

    Under the ordinance your sump pump discharge (into your yard)  would go into the relief combined sewer system during big rain events.

    The relief sewer improvement system that is mentioned in the article was constructed in the 90s.  It basically acts to sequester storm water during big rain events and discharges directly into the Deep Tunnel–which is primarily handles stormwater.

    As someone who has lived here for 30 years, it has really been effective in stopping basement backups.

    By pumping your sump pump into the santiary sewage system you are needlessly putting stormwater into the combined system which requires expensive and energy-intensive treatment.

    Check out the city's sewer site for more information: http://www.cityofevanston.org/utilities/sewer-division/sewer-systems/

  4. Sump pump issues

    When we permasealed our basement two years ago, we were told the City would not permit us to plumb our sump pump into the sewer, as it had been before.  Instead we had to pump it onto our front yard, which immediately became swampy and eroded.  Last spring we took out a chunk of sod and put in a rain garden where the sump pump empties.  It adds interest and curb appeal (and extra work) to our property.

  5. Dollars to doughnuts they pass this

    This comes on top of the city requiring backflow valves to be put on furnaces and other systems.  Even if the valve was turned on once a year—start of winter—for the furnace—and the valve was manual, the city requires a permit, plumber to install the valve, city inspection and annual inspection. I don't see how but the city must think they can make money off of this—of course they charge for the permit and probably inspection.

    State boiler inspectors [semi-annual] never mention this.  Plumbers and annual private boiler inspectors never mention this—surely if it was needed they would not pass up the opportunity to get paid to do this.

    That is small potatoscompared to this sump pump ordinance.

    Remember in the 70's the city told buildings they had to disconnect their storm drains from the system—water to flow on the sidewalks.  Then they saw what a mess that would cause and reversed themselves—but did not tell people so that even in the 2000s people were still under the impression that their building should/must disconnect their storrm drains.

    Get ready for what is next.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *