What Is An Areaway Drain?
An Areaway drain is a type of water main that runs underground. They are usually located near the street level, but they may be found in basements or even under houses.
There are many types of areaways, some of which have been around since before the Civil War. Some of them were built during the industrial revolution, when there was a need for quick and easy access to fresh water. Others were constructed after World War II, when it became necessary to store water from rivers and lakes for use in times of drought. Still others were installed as part of the post-World War II “Great Migration” that saw millions of Americans move away from cities in search of work opportunities.
Areaways are designed to provide quick and easy access to clean water. However, they do not always meet these requirements.
When the water pressure drops too low, the pipe can burst causing a flood that destroys homes and businesses. Most often, the problem occurs because of inadequate maintenance.
Areaways are typically made up of multiple pipes that carry water from one location to another. A typical areaway consists of two or three layers.
One layer carries the water, while the next contains sand and gravel to absorb any debris that might get into the pipe. The third layer holds back the excess water until it reaches a treatment plant where it is treated with chemicals such as chlorine or iodine. The good news is that a clogged drain can be fixed by professional plumber.
Areaway Drain Clogged
Water problems in basements are usually caused by clogged areaway drains. Water pressure decreases as it travels further from its source, such as a river or lake.
Since areaway drains are far from any large bodies of water they experience very low water pressure. While these chemicals are designed to prevent bacteria from forming in the water, they can react with the natural minerals that are also found in the water, creating a noxious gas that can kill anyone who is unfortunate enough to be near the pipe when it leaks.
This is just one of many dangers that are posed by an areaway. Because of this pressure drop, water from an areaway drain can back up when it is not draining properly.
When there is a clog in the areaway drain, water backs up and floods the basement. The problem may extend beyond the basement and affect the ground floor as well.
When this happens, homeowners often assume that their sump pump has broken. They do not understand that the problem is actually in a pipe far away from the house. In some cases people have been trapped in drains when they clogged with debris. Due to the low water pressure, these people could not get out of the drain and drowned in a few feet of water. The water pressure was too weak to push the water out of the drain fast enough for them to reach safety.
Areaways aren’t just a problem in basements. They can also cause damage to homes that are far away from their location, sometimes even miles away.
This happens when the water has been chemically treated, often with chlorine or iodine. The treatment isn’t designed to prevent clogs; it is used to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that might otherwise get into the water supply. Sometimes there is too much chlorine or iodine in the water, however. This can make the water acidic enough to burn holes in metal or concrete.
Sometimes the water is left on a truck or railroad car for too long before it is distributed from the pipe. Since bacteria needs time to breed, leaving water standing around allows bacteria to grow inside of it.
This is one way that areaway water can turn toxic. The other way is when the chemicals used to treat the water get old and start to break down. They react with the water and often turn it a bright blue color.
Sometimes this water is forced out of the pipe by pressure from the main water supply. This can happen when the areaway is connected to the main water supply with only a stop valve between them.
The pressure in the pipe can be so great that it bursts through the weakest point in the system. This often happens at floor or wall joints that haven’t been sealed properly, or at poorly fitted pipes. In this case, the water doesn’t just flood the basement. It can squirt out at high enough pressure to blow holes in the walls of houses several feet away.
The city has no control over the areaway pipes that run through your property. The pipes are privately owned by the company that made them.
They are responsible for making sure that they don’t leak or break. If they do leak or break, the city has no way of knowing unless you report it. If the city receives a report that a main is spraying water from a hole in the street, they will turn off the water to the entire block to stop it until they can repair it.
Lyonsdale had no such thing as private ownership of property. The city was owned by the government and every citizen had an equal share in it.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Shower shield system for bathroom shower drain areaways (D Jordon, H Jordon, D Jordon… – US Patent App. 11/455,509, 2007 – Google Patents)
- Fluid drainage disposal system (BL Harper – US Patent 3,454,043, 1969 – Google Patents)
- Hair retriever tub drain device (JP Aranda – US Patent 4,825,477, 1989 – Google Patents)
- Accessible areaway system (JA Gefroh, FJ Hattman – US Patent 4,876,833, 1989 – Google Patents)
- Drain cover (M Corder – US Patent 9,573,086, 2017 – Google Patents)
- Modular accessible areaway system (JA Gefroh, FJ Hattman – US Patent 5,107,640, 1992 – Google Patents)