Sewer Backups

Tree Roots in Sewer Pipe

When the Dreadful and Unexpected Happens - A Backed Up Sewer

What is a sewer backup?

A sewer backup happens when the sewage overflows from your toilet or any drain in your home (sink, tub, shower, floor) into your home. When a backup occurs, it creates a stressful, emotional and very unpleasant situation. It can cause damage to your property and personal belongings. It is also harmful to the environment and exposes anyone or anything nearby to disease causing organisms.

Lateral vs Main

What is a sewer lateral? A sewer lateral or house lateral is the pipe between the City's sanitary sewer main (usually located in the street) and the building. The sewer lateral is owned and maintained by the property owner including any part which may extent into the street. (See below for brochure Whose Responsible for Pipe Repairs or ¿Quién es responsable por las reparaciones de tuberías? for more information)

Does my insurance cover this?

Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover damage resulting from sewer backups. The best is to contact your insurance provider to clearly understand the terms of your policy. Many insurance providers do have insurance riders that you can purchase to insure loss due to sewer backups.

What Causes a Sewer Backup?

Sanitary sewer lines backups are caused by a number of things. Causes of backups may include:

Separated Joints: Underground pipes aren't solid. They can disconnect at the joint. One cause of this could be a construction mishap.

Clogged or Blocked Pipes: Excessive waste disposed of in sinks, drains or toilets can block your sewer line. Things like kitchen grease, hair, disposable diapers, paper towels, baby/disposable wipes (even those that say flushable), feminine hygiene products and more can build up to the point where it blocks your pipe.. Never put these types of things down a drain or toilet! And remember what you flush down the toilet or put down your drains may not always affect you, but it might cause problems for your neighbors!

Root Damage: Trees and shrubs may not be an issue when the pipes are installed, but years of growth can lead to issues later. By nature, tree and shrub roots seek out water and nutrients in the ground. Your pipes are very attractive sources of water. Once a root penetrates a pipe, it can grow quickly causes backups.

Cracks/Breaks in the Pipe: Ground movement, roots, clogs, temperature and poor installation can cause cracks or breaks in your pipes.

Clear Water Connections: Clear Water is rain water, ground water or snow melt that can enter the sewer system through uncovered or damaged cleanouts, cracked or broken sewer pipes, basement sump pumps and downspouts that are connected directly to the sanitary sewer. Clearwater can overwhelm the capacity of the City's sanitary sewer system and cause widespread backups. It is a violation of the City's Ordinance 153 to have clear water connections directly or indirectly connected to the City's sanitary sewer. Persons could be subject to penalties and damage recovery if found liable due to clear water connections per the City's Ordinance 153.

What Should I Do If Sewage Backs Up Into My Home/Business?

Sewer Pipe Clogged with GreaseRemember to call the Arcadia Wastewater Utility first if your sewer is backed up. An employee from the Wastewater Utility will respond to the address and determine if the problem is in the City's main line or if it's within your property's sewer lateral. If the City's main is found to be clear then it is determined that the blockage is in the property's sewer lateral, you will be advised to call a plumber to check your service line. If the blockage is in the City's main we will fix it as quickly as possible and keep you informed about what is being done.

To report a sewer backup call: Arcadia Wastewater Utility (608) 323-3452

Remember untreated sewage contains bacteria and other hazardous microorganisms. They can be transmitted by touching contaminated areas and tracking them into uncontaminated areas. Use precaution by wearing protective clothing such as waterproof boots, gloves, eye protection and clothes that are washable or disposable. Frequent hand washing is also an important preventive measure.

  • Carefully try to close as many drains as you can, using care with ceramic plumbing fixtures such as toilets. Quickly close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs. Tub, sink and floor drains may need additional weight to keep them sealed.

  • Don't run any water down any drain in your home until the blockage or cause has been cleared or fixed.

  • Turn off heating/air conditioning systems.

  • Keep people and pets out of the affected area

  • Turn off appliances that use water

  • Take pictures of the affected areas

  • Contact your homeowner's insurance to determine what coverage may be available

  • Arrange for cleanup of your property. Depending on the severity of the backup, you may want to contact a restoration company that specializes in sewer backups.

What About the Mess?

A sewer backup can lead to disease, destruction of your valuables, damage to your house and electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup of affected property can help minimize the inconvenience and damage.

Who Pays to Clean Up the Mess?

In the vast majority of cases, you do. If the backup occurs in your service line or in the main line as a result of anything other than the utility's negligence, it is your responsibility to clean up the mess and restore the line.

The Arcadia Wastewater Utility is not responsible for your service lateral.

What Can You Do? Sewer Backups Are Preventable

  • Reduce your risk by being mindful of what you flush (See link below, It's a Toilet, Not a Trashcan)

  • Pour all liquid oil and grease into a sealable container and dispose of it in the trash (See link below, Fat-Free Sewers)

  • Dry wipe plates, pots, pans and dishes into the trash before washing

  • Have your sewer line checked periodically for tree roots and check the cap on your cleanout.

  • Make sure your basement sump pump or downspouts aren't connected to the sanitary sewer. (See link below, Clear Water Connections)

What does the Arcadia Wastewater Utility do to prevent backups?

The Arcadia Wastewater Utility checks the city's sewer mains periodically. Each week, areas are checked and "flushed" to clean the sanitary sewer system. The Utility also uses video or physical inspections along with degreasing and root control materials in problem areas of the City. Unfortunatley, even with regualar scheduled maintenance, some backups are simply unavoidable. These include events caused by vandalism, infrastructure breakdown, ground movement and natural disaster.

It's a Toilet - Not a Trashcan
Fat-Free Sewers
Clear Water Connections - Sump Pumps & Downspouts
Whose Responsible for Pipe Repairs? (English)
¿Quién es responsable por las reparaciones de tuberías?

To Report A Sewer Backup:

Call the Arcadia Wastewater Utility at 608-323-3452