The objective of this multi-phase program is to reduce the risk of basement flooding and environmental concerns caused by the direct connection of downspouts to the sanitary sewer system. These connections create an increased flow of rainwater into the sanitary sewer system during heavy or long-duration rain events, which can in turn cause:
- Overflow of sanitary sewer system
- Sanitary sewer backups
- Basement flooding
This program also enforces the existing City of Markham Sewer By-Law # 2014-71 [PDF] [Clauses 3.1D & 19.11] and the Region of York’s Sewage and Land Drainage By-Law # S-0064-2005-009, which prohibit the discharge of roof drainage water into the sanitary sewer system.
Currently, this program is expected to be completed in five phases. Each area of focus within the City has been placed in a particular phase of the program based on available historical information including flow data and operational records of sewer backup/basement flooding. Please note that the number of phases, identified program areas, priority of the areas and the overall program implementation time are subject to change. This is based on the annual risk evaluation of different areas within the City taking into consideration the most up-to-date flow monitoring results, flooding records, and the improvement to the system due to other initiatives/programs.
Phase 1 Program Area
The first phase of the program began in May 2013 within the Thornhill area. The investigations and testing work within Phase 1 Area [PDF] was completed in April 2014. The downspout disconnection work has been completed and the flow monitoring within the area will commence in Spring/Summer 2016.
Phase 2 Program Area
The second phase of the program began in May 2014 within the Thornhill Area. The investigation and testing work with Phase 2 Area [PDF] was completed in April 2015. The notice of disconnection had been mailed out to the affected homeowners in June 2015.
Phase 3 Program Area
The third phase of the program began in May 2015, which covers area within Thornhill, Milliken and Unionville. The investigation and testing work within the Phase 3 Area [PDF] was completed in April 2016. The notice of disconnection will be mailed out to the affected homeowners beginning June 2016.
Phase 4 Program Area
The fourth phase of the program began in May 2016 within the Markham Area. The investigations and testing work within the Phase 4 Area [PDF] begins in May 2016.
Steps taken by City to identify downspout discharge locations
Before any downspouts are disconnected, the City needs to confirm whether or not the downspouts that go into the ground are actually connected to the municipal sanitary sewer system. To do this, the following steps must be taken:
1. Preliminary property investigation
General surveys of residential lots to identify if downspouts are discharging above the ground or into the ground.
2. Sanitary & storm sewer smoke testing
Smoke testing within the sanitary and storm sewer systems, which involves blowing a non-toxic, highly visible smoke through the systems and observing the exit points of the smoke. This test can identify whether downspouts that go into the ground are connected into the sanitary sewer system or the storm sewer system. In addition, the smoke test also identifies other devices/equipment that are connected to the underground sewer system.
Identified downspouts that discharge into the municipal sanitary sewer system
After the completion of the property investigations and testing, a Notice of Disconnection will be distributed to those homes with downspouts connected to the sanitary sewer system. The notice will indicate which downspouts within the property need to be disconnected. Additional information about how to disconnect a downspout and the use of rain barrels will be provided when the downspout disconnection stage begins.
Financial Assistance Plan
Markham Council has approved a Financial Assistance Plan for the Sanitary System Downspout Disconnection Program to assist homeowners with the cost to disconnect their downspouts from the sanitary sewer.
Only homeowners who receive a disconnection notice from the City will be eligible.
Details of the Financial Assistance Plan
- The City will reimburse 80% of the cost for completing the downspout disconnection, up to a maximum of $500;
- The City will reimburse 100% of the cost for a rain barrel purchased by the home owner, up to a maximum of $150.
Steps to file for partial cost reimbursement
- Fill out the Financial Assistance Application Form [PDF] and submit to the City along with all original/photocopy receipts by mail, e-mail or fax. Please specify in the submission “Downspout Disconnect - Financial Assistance Application”.
- Once the City receives your application package, City staff will contact the homeowner to arrange for an inspection of the disconnected downspouts.
- After verifying the downspouts have been disconnected properly, the City will then process the application and a cheque will be sent out to the homeowner.
How to disconnect a downspout
Things to consider before disconnecting a downspout:
- Ensure there is a suitable area for the water to discharge from the downspout
- Ensure downspouts are disconnected and drained properly away from the foundation walls and directly to a storage device (e.g. a rain barrel), your lawn or garden.
- When disconnecting downspouts, remember not to drain directly onto neighbouring properties, lanes or sidewalks.
- It is recommended that the disconnected downspouts be extended to discharge water at least 1 meter from any structure's foundation (including your neighbour’s) or public sidewalk and 2.5 meters from retaining walls.
- Ensure the ground slopes away from the house for a minimum of 1 meter.
- Use a splash pad to help direct the flow of water and protect against erosion.
- Ensure eavestroughs are clean and drain properly.
- Obtain professional advice and service from a knowledgeable and licensed roofer, eaves trough contractor or civil engineer.
Step-by-step procedure to disconnect your downspouts [PDF]
Use of Rain Barrels
Rain barrels can be constructed in a number of ways, but they serve the same purpose – to collect rainwater from downspouts and rooftops and decrease the amount of storm water runoff that leaves your property. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for those times that you need it most – during dry summer months – for watering lawns and gardens. Using rain barrels can help you lower your water bill and improve your lawns, plants, flowers and trees.
Rain barrels are easy to install and provide relatively clean water for non-drinking purposes. The following are some tips when installing rain barrels:
- Install a splash pad with the rain barrel, located under the barrel’s tap and overflow spout, in order to direct roof water away from your home’s foundation walls.
- Install the rain barrel on a strong, level surface as it can weigh up to 1200 lbs when full – a patio or paving stone is ideal.
- If the rain barrel is slightly elevated, an attached hose can be used to direct water towards a garden or lawn via gravity.
- To limit mosquito-breeding, ensure that your rain barrel is mosquito/vector proof. Most manufactured rain barrels come with this feature.
- Drain your rain barrel before each storm event to allow for full capacity and before the winter to prevent cracking.
Help is only a phone call away! Waterworks staff will be more than happy to help you.
You can also visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for additional information.