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Sewer Backups

A sewer backup occurs when water or sewage overflows from your toilet, tub, sink, or any other drain in your home.  These events are more common in older homes, homes with basements, and more likely to occur on lower floors. 

Common causes of sewer backups include separated joints in pipes, root damage, clogged pipes, cracks in the pipe, or blockages in the sewer main. If a sewer backup occurs in your home due to an issue with your service line, you    are responsible for the cleanup and damage.

How to prevent sewer back ups

Follow these steps if you have a sewer backup:

  1. Carefully try to cover as many drains as you can, using care with ceramic plumbing fixtures.
  2. Don’t run any water down any drain or toilet in your home until the clogs  are cleared.
  3. Check if neighbors are affected. This could indicate a problem in the sewer main.
  4. Call a plumber to assist with clearing the issue and covering and/or clearing your drains.
  5. Call your utility (ERWSD) to report the issue. We'll recommend action and check the sewer main.
  6. Call your homeowners’ insurance company to determine what coverage may be available.
  7. Call a contractor to clean and restore your home to a livable condition.   Your insurance company should be able to recommend one.

Who pays to clean up the mess?

The home or property owner is responsible for the cost of clean up. If the backup occurs in your service line or in the sewer main as a result of anything other than the utility’s negligence, it is ultimately your responsibility to clean it up and restore the line. Your utility isn’t responsible for your lines, or for acts of nature or vandalism. In many cases, the utility will coordinate clean up with a cleaning service to help minimize the damage, but the financial responsibility probably lies with you.

Here are a few things you can do to safeguard your home

  • Plumbers can assess your risk and install backwater valves to protect basements.
  • Use grease-fighting liquid dish soaps like Dawn to break up grease blockages.
  • Review the list below of items to never wash down a drain.
  • Make sure your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for sewer backups.
  • Know who to call before a problem occurs. 
Auto fluids Glue
Bacon Grease Gravy
Bandages Hair or fur
Bread Dough Kitchen grease
Butter Lard
Candles/melted wax Meat drippings
Cheese Medicine
Cigarettes or cigarette butts Paint
Cleaning supplies Paper or paper towels
Coffee filters or coffee grounds  Poison
Cosmetics Powders
Cotton balls and swabs Putties
Cooking oils Sanitary pads or tampons
Deceased pets Solvents
Dental floss Sponges
Facial tissue Toothpaste
Fats, oils, or grease (FOG)  Vegetables
Food solids Wet wipes

What are utilities doing to prevent back-ups?
ERWSD conducts routine sewer line cleaning called jetting in order to maintain the wastewater collection system. Unfortunately, even with regular scheduled maintenance, some backups are simply unavoidable. These include events caused vandalism, infrastructure breakdown, ground movement or natural disaster. 

ERWSD uses industry best practices to maintain sewer systems and lessen the risk of a blockage. The district has a Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) control program which provides specific guidance for all sewer system users to understand and comply with the District Pollutant Discharge Regulations and Industrial Pretreatment Program. The FOG program promotes best management practices in residential homes and commercial food service establishments. 

For more information, contact Customer Service at (970) 476-7480.