Causes of Sanitary Sewer Back Ups

Causes of Sanitary Sewer Back Ups

A sewer backup creates a stressful and emotional situation for businesses and residents. In some cases it may cause health and safety concerns as well as significant property loss. A proper response to a sanitary sewer backup can greatly minimize property damage and diminish the threat of illness.

The District and Municipalities make every effort to be responsive to business’s and residents' needs and concerns when a sewer backup occurs. The District and Municipalities have dedicated Staff whose that inspect, clean and maintain the sanitary sewer. Unfortunately, because a sanitary sewer is not a closed system, many things put down the drain can clog the system. Large amounts of grease from restaurants/homes and non-flushable personal care wipes are two common items that cause problems. While the District and Municipalities have adopted rules prohibiting the discharge of substances likely to cause a sewer obstruction, and can try to educate the public about the problems they cause, there is really no way that can absolutely prevent this from happening. Other factors can cause backups as well, such as tree roots, which can grow into and obstruct a sewer. The failure and collapse of the sewer pipe can also result in sanitary sewer-backups.

Problem Responsibility

LATERAL vs. PUBLIC SEWER: What is a sewer lateral? A sewer lateral or house lateral is the sewer pipe between the public sanitary sewer, usually located in the street, and the building. Please see graphic below. The sewer lateral is owned and maintained by the property owner including any part, which may extend into the street or public right of way. The District and Municipalities are responsible for operating and maintaining the public sanitary sewers.

If the problem is in the sewer lateral, the homeowner or business is responsible for correcting the problem. The owner of the property is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the sewer lateral from the building (or home) to the public sanitary sewer. Local sewer contractors and plumbers have special cleaning, televising, and locating equipment for addressing sewer lateral issues.

If the problem is in the sewer lateral, whom do you call for help? You will need to call a plumber or local sewer contractor. Check your Yellow Pages. The District encourages obtaining several estimates to ensure you get the best pricing possible.

More often than not, the cause of a backup in your lateral is from items that the line is not meant to handle, such as grease, non-flushable wipes, kid's toys, underwear, towels, diapers, paper products (other than toilet paper), keys and even false teeth. To avoid flushing these items, remember to close the toilet lid. What you flush down the toilet may not affect you, but it might cause problems for your neighbors! Another possible cause would be roots in your lateral.