Sewer Backups

What To Do In An Emergency

Sewer backups are usually unexpected and always create a mess. At best, the backup requires unpleasant cleanup and sometimes expensive damage.

Who is going to fix the problem?
That depends on whether the stoppage is in your private line or the South Valley Sewer District sewer main. If it is in SVSD’s main, we fix it as quickly as possible and keep you informed about what’s being done.

If the problem is with the private line connecting your house to the District main, we’ll tell you so you can get it fixed. It is against the law for the District to work on private property.

How do I tell if my sanitary sewer problem is in my house plumbing or in the public sanitary sewer main?
Generally if the problem is within the house plumbing or private sanitary service lateral, turning off all water use will stop the backup.

Who is going to pay for this?
You pay the bill. This is why it is important to make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers sewer backups.

Will the District reimburse me for the damage if the backup is in the District’s main?
Only if we had advance knowledge that the District system was at fault and we didn’t fix the problem.

Is this District policy or law?
This is law. Public funds can’t be spent for private purposes. The District is only responsible for its own property – not your line or connection to the main. The District can only be held liable for damages if we knew we had a problem and didn’t fix it in a reasonable time.

How do I find out if I can be reimbursed?
If the stoppage is not in your private line, you can file a claim. District staff will investigate to see if the District is liable, which includes prior notice of the District system’s problem. Make sure you have proper insurance. Sewer backups are not automatically covered by all homeowner’s insurance policies. Check your policy to make sure you are covered for damages due to sewer backups. Remember, the District is not an insurer. The District can only pay for damages under extremely limited circumstances set out by law. Don’t assume you’re covered! You may need a special option for coverage. Talk to your insurance agent.

Emergency Contact Information
In case of an emergency, please dial 911 or contact us for instructions.

Check Your Insurance


Homeowners should be aware that not all homeowners’ insurance policies will cover costs incurred with sewer backing up in their home. A standard homeowner’s policy does not include coverage for water and sewer backup. If your service line should become plugged and sewer backs up in you home, it could do several thousand dollars worth of damage. Please check your policy or check with your agent to be sure you are covered if a mishap should occur. Most insurance companies do offer just a water and sewer backup coverage by itself. To help alleviate the chance of a backup occurring, the district has an annual sewer cleaning program in place where we clean a third of the district lines every year. We are only responsible for our main line, not your service line.

Emergency Contact Information
In case of an emergency, please dial 911 or contact us for instructions.

Avoid Future Backups

Blockages can occur for numerous reasons. Some of the most common causes are tree roots, grease and toys or objects inserted by children who may use drains to dispose of pencils, Barbie dolls, etc. To avoid home sewer problems, you may want to contact a local plumber to clear these roots from your lateral and prevent your drains from backing up.

The District does not endorse or recommend any particular plumbing service – we suggest that you consult the Better Business Bureau to identify a reliable plumber. In the event that you hire a plumbing service, we request that you call us and allow our crew to “catch” any root mass that is released into the sewer main during the plumber’s maintenance activities. When you are searching for a quality company, it is recommended that you consider asking the following questions:

  • What is the cost to perform a given service?
  • What is the company’s guarantee for their work?
  • How long does the guarantee last?

Most homeowners have experienced a temporary blockage or sluggish drains in their plumbing. Minor blockages often can be cleared with a plunger.

Cooking grease, hair, food particles, toilet paper and roots often cause sluggish drains or line blockages. If they happen near the drain opening or toilet bowl, a plunger may be effective in clearing them. However, if the problem is some distance into a drain line, it may require a plumber to locate and resolve.

Contact us at the first sign of a problem – before the sewer backs up. If your drains are running slowly, for example, call us. We’ll come and check the District’s sewer main.

Eliminate Water
If you have a blocked or stubborn drain, the first thing you want to do is reduce or eliminate the water you put in the lines to minimize the amount of damage you may do. Obviously, if you keep flushing a slow-moving toilet, it will overflow the bowl, damaging your floor.

Washing machines can create one of the biggest problems when your drains are running slowly. Washers use 15 to 20 gallons a load. This water could back up into toilets or showers, possibly causing overflow damage. It is relatively easy to find out if the blockage is in the house drains or in the sewer lines.

Check Your Cleanout
Many homes have a cleanout and it is usually located near the foundation of the house.

First, check the cleanout to see if it has water in it. If it contains no water, then you know the blockage is somewhere in the house plumbing. If there is water standing in the cleanout, the blockage is most likely in the line from the house to the main sewer line. Under these circumstances you should discontinue using your facilities and contact us for instructions.

Other Tips:

  • Never connect sump pumps, French drains or other flood control systems to your sanitary sewer. It’s illegal and the debris and silt will clog your line. Call a plumber to undo illegal connections.
  • Dispose of grease and fats with your trash, not down the drain. Even if you run it through a garbage disposal, grease in drains can collect and harden into a plug.
  • Do not dispose of diapers or other disposable hygiene products in your toilets
  • Do not dispose of bones and food scraps if you do not have an appliance to grind them before disposal
  • Inspect and have your rooftop vents cleaned out by a professional
  • Place screening over your rooftop vents if you encounter a problem with rodents entering your home through your toilets

Tree Roots
Tree roots, a common cause of sewer problems, will grow deeper and farther into the ground to find a water and nutrient source. Sewer pipes installed prior to the 1980s were typical of the clay pipe style, which can allow roots to access and disrupt the wastewater flow in your sewer. A root cutter can be utilized to correct this problem.

Once again, we recommend contracting with a sewer cleaner or plumber to correct this problem, as most homeowners will generally not be familiar with or have the equipment needed to perform the work. For the do-it-yourself-er who would prefer trying to correct the problem on his/her own, this type of equipment may be rented from a local vendor.

Emergency Contact Information
In case of an emergency, please dial 911 or contact us for instructions.