Sewer Backup

Are You Prepared for a Sewer Backup?

Sewer backups happen. If you’ve ever experienced one, you know there's a lot of time and money spent to correct the damage caused by the backup. Sanitary sewer line blockages are typically caused by roots, grease, and improper disposal of items. Tree roots can enter the sanitary sewer system at joints and cracks in the sewer service lines and main. Grease can solidify in the sewer lines and restrict other waste from flowing through. The lines can be blocked by disposable diapers, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, washing machine lint, or similar items that might get flushed down the drain or toilet.

As a resident, you play an important role in keeping the City's main sewer line and your own private sewer service clean and clear of blockages. The following items should be disposed of in your trash can, NOT in the sanitary sewer system:

  • Diapers
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Rags or shop towels
  • Garage waste products such as oil grease, gasoline, antifreeze
  • Household wastes such as ashes, corrosives, glass, metals, paint, poisons or solvents
  • Yard waste such as sand, soil or mud

If you have a sewer backup and do not know where the blockage is, call the Water Systems Department before you call a drain cleaning company. You may be able to avoid an unnecessary charge if the problem is in the City’s sewer line rather than your property’s service line. An employee will determine where the problem is.

The homeowner is responsible for cleaning any blockage in the service line between the home and the City sanitary sewer main.  This includes debris and tree roots. The homeowner is also responsible for cleaning and repairing any damage done to the property by the backup.

The City is not automatically liable for blockages in the City's sanitary sewer system. The City is only liable for those damages if the backup was caused by the City's negligence.

Most homeowners insurance policies exclude damage resulting from sewer backups. Many insurance providers do have insurance riders that can be purchased to insure loss due to sewer backups.

F  O  G (Fats - Oils - Grease)

Cooking oil and grease, lard, butter/margarine, meat fats, shortening, sauces, icing, batters, dressings, dairy products

F O G poured or washed down the drain into the sanitary sewer system clings to pipe walls and builds up over time, blocking the flow of wastewater exiting the home or business. When a blockage occurs, raw sewage backs up and overflows inside the home.

How to Dispose of F O G

Food residue containing fats, oils, and grease should be disposed of in the trash; never down the drain of toilet. 

Store grease in a container. Let it harden, then dispose of it in the trash.

Wipe F O G residue from pans with a paper towel before washing and put the towel in the trash, or scrape F O G residue into the trash using a spatula and wash the spatula with the pans.

Place a strainer in the kitchen sink drain to catch food scraps and other solids. Empty the strainer into the trash.

Keep it Flowing

Periodically clean your sewer lateral, the line from your house to the street.

Coffee grounds, eggshells, and most cooking residue can be composted or should go in the garbage. Meat, cheese, bones, and dairy products should not be composted.

Cat litter, diapers, baby wipes, cleaning wipes, hair, cigarettes, cotton balls, Q-tips, paper towels, and tissues all belong in the trash, not down the toilet.

Old medicines should not be put out in the trash or down the drain. The Law Enforcement Center has a dropbox for old medicines in the lobby.

Dispose of hazardous waste materials at an approved collection site, not down the drain.

Use fine screen in your shower drain to catch hair, and on the laundry discharge hose to catch lint.

Sewer Odors

Food and sink drains have water filling the bottom of the drain trap which acts as a barrier between the air in the sewer line and the air in your home. When a drain trap becomes dry, sewer odors can enter into the residence. If you experience sewer odors in your home, run a half-gallon of water down your drain.