How to handle sewer back-ups into home or property
Fairfield wastewater superintendent Shawn Worley has fielded numerous calls lately from residents inquiring about how to handle a sewer back-up.
Worley’s first piece of advice to property owners when they call is to first check to see if it backs up only when they use their facilities such as a stool, tub, washer or sinks.
If so, it is a possibility the homeowners need a plumber.
“If you have sewage backing up when you have not used any facilities, it is a possibility it is the city main,” he said.
If a blockage in the private building sewer is the cause of the sewer backup, it is the responsibility of the property owner to clear the blockage. The private building sewer extends from the interior plumbing of the building to where the pipe connects to the public sewer main which includes the pipe tap.
Various private firms are equipped to remove the blockage from a private line.
In the event any of these actions are not successful in removing the blockage from a private building sewer, it is possible the private sewer has collapsed. Worley said this is likely the case if the sewer was installed during the period from 1950-1970 when bituminous fiber pipe called “Orangeburg” was installed in most residential areas in Fairfield. He added the city does not have a record of what type of pipe material residents actually have on their private lines.
Property owners may require the services of a qualified contractor to repair or replace the private building sewer.
Worley said if residents feel the blockage is not in their private line but in the city main, they should call the wastewater treatment facility at 472-5218 or they can call 919-8348 any time of the day or night. Sewer maintenance personnel will contact the resident as soon as possible, so residents are asked to leave their name, address and telephone number.
The city sewer maintenance crew will first check the public sewer main to determine if it is causing the sewer backup. If the public main is operating normally, indications are that the private building sewer is causing the backup. The crew will immediately attempt to notify the property owner or residents of this fact.
How to prevent a sewer backup
If a resident has experienced backup from his building sewer, he might consider the installation of backup devices, which may be installed by a qualified plumbing company or contractor.
Worley warns against planting trees and shrubs over the private building sewer. The roots of trees, particularly silver maple and willow trees, seek out the joints of the sanitary sewer line and eventually clog the pipe.
He recommends not puting large amounts of vegetable waste, such as pea pods and tomato or potato skins, through the garbage disposal at one time. Even though these materials will go through the disposal, they may clog the building sewer. One option also is creating an acceptable compost solution to organic waste. Grease is another material that will plug the building sewer overtime eventually causing a back up. He advises keeping lint traps in the drains which drain washing machines in place since it is much easier to clean than a clogged sewer line.
If the building sewer serves as a commercial establishment in which a grease trap is required, the grease trap should be cleaned periodically to prevent solids from bypassing into the building sewer, he said.
“If you smell sewer gas, check to see if all traps are filled with water which includes: unused toilets, unused sinks, floor drains, unused showers or bath tubs,” he said. “Also check to see that the exterior sewer clean out has a cap on correctly and the sewer vent pipe for the building is free from obstructions like bird nests and leaves.”