A backed-up sewer can cause thousands of dollars in damage to subfloors, flooring, electrical systems, walls, furniture, and other personal belongings. In this blog post, we want to help you learn about the causes of sewer backups, what you as a homeowner are responsible for maintaining and the steps you can take to protect your property against sewer backups.
What is a Property Owner’s Responsibility for Sewer Maintenance?
Did you know that if you own a property that you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of your sewer lateral, which is the section of the sewer line between the city sanitary sewer main and your property? Your responsibility includes any part of the sewer lateral that extends into the street or public right of way. A cracked or deteriorated lateral or one filled with tree roots can allow groundwater to seep into the system causing problems.
What are the Causes of Sewer Backups?
The Civil Engineering Research Foundation reports that the number of backed-up sewers is increasing at an alarming rate of about 3 percent annually.
Here are some of the most common causes of sewer backups:
- Old sewer systems ‒ The American Society of Civil Engineers indicates that cost city sewer lines are on average over thirty years old. The increase in the number of homes connected to these old, inadequate, and often in disrepair sewage systems have contributed to the increases in sanitary sewer backups, flooded basements, and overflows.
- Mixed-use pipelines ‒ Problems arise when stormwater and raw sewage are placed into the same pipeline. During many rainstorms, these systems are inundated with more volume than they are built to handle. Usually, the result is a sewage backup that causes sewage to flow into basements and other low lying drain areas.
- Vegetation root systems ‒ Tree and shrub root systems area always looking for moisture, thus they often make their way in to sewer line cracks and service pipe joints. If this happens, it can cause extensive damage or blockages in these pipes. The clean-up costs will become the problem of whoever owns the vegetation that intruded into the pipes. If the issue results from a combination of city and private trees, sometimes the city and property owner will split the costs for clean up, repair, and replacement.
- Sanitary main blockages ‒ A blockage can occur in a city sanitary main. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the main can back up into homes and businesses through floor drains. Often, this happens slowly and there are early indications of a problem. If you see seepage at the floor drains, call a licensed plumber to assess the situation and the damage. If water is entering into your basement at a rapid rate, call the city public works office and report the problem immediately. Next, you will need to call a water damage restoration company to help clean up this mess and minimize the amount of damage that could have been caused by this sewer backup.