Sewer backups can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, causing damage to property, health hazards, and significant inconvenience. Understanding the causes, prevention measures, and proper remediation techniques can help you effectively deal with sewer backups and minimize their impact on your home and well-being.

Sewer backups occur when the wastewater flowing from your home to the municipal sewer system gets blocked or obstructed, causing sewage to flow back into your property. Some common causes of sewer backups include:

· Blockages: Grease, debris, hair, and foreign objects can accumulate and form blockages in your sewer lines, causing backups.

· Tree Root Intrusion: Tree roots can infiltrate sewer pipes through cracks or joints, leading to clogs and backups.

· Collapsed Sewer Lines: Aging or deteriorating sewer lines can collapse, obstructing the flow of wastewater.

· Heavy Rainfall: Intense rainfall can overwhelm the sewer system, causing it to back up into homes.

· Improper Flushing: Flushing non-biodegradable items such as wet wipes, paper towels, and sanitary products can lead to blockages.

Luckily, some prevention measures can be taken to reduce the chances of experiencing a sewer backup. The top prevention measures range from relatively simple steps and best practices to consulting professionals:

· Proper Disposal: Dispose of cooking grease, oils, and fats in a separate container instead of pouring them down the drain.

· Use a Strainer: Install strainers in sinks and tubs to catch hair and debris that could potentially clog pipes.

· Mindful Flushing: Toilet paper and waste are the only items that should be flushed down the toilet. Refrain from flushing items like wet wipes, paper towels, diapers, and sanitary products.

· Regular Inspections: Schedule annual professional inspections of your sewer lines to identify and address potential issues before they escalate.

· Tree Management: If you have trees near your sewer lines, consider consulting an arborist to manage root growth and prevent infiltration.

 Planning ahead can also help prevent future incidents. According to the Director of Operations for Swan Hills, John Gibbons, roughly half of the calls the Town receives regarding sewer backups end up being caused by tree root intrusion into the sewer pipes. With this in mind, it is good practice to ensure that you know where the sewer and water lines are on your property and refrain from planting trees or bushes above them. Choosing trees with a small root bed can also serve to prevent future problems.

 If you experience a sewer backup in your home, act quickly and follow these steps:

· Immediate Action: If you notice signs of a sewer backup, stop using the water in your home and contact a professional plumber.

· Protect Yourself: Avoid contact with sewage water, as it may contain harmful bacteria and pathogens. Wear protective gear if you need to interact with contaminated areas.

· Professional Assistance: Contact a licensed plumber to assess the situation and perform necessary repairs.

· Cleaning and Disinfection: After the backup is resolved, special care is needed to thoroughly clean and disinfect the affected areas. If the affected area is small, it can be cleaned up with a wet/dry vacuum and the use of appropriate cleaning agents. More extensive cleanups will likely require a restoration company to perform most of the work. Anything that can absorb water (including carpets, wood flooring, affected baseboards and trim, drywall, etc.) may have to be removed and discarded.

· Document The Damage: Take photos and videos of the damage caused by the backup. This documentation may be helpful for insurance claims.

· Insurance Coverage: Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to determine whether sewer backups are covered. If they are, promptly report the incident to your insurance company.

 In Swan Hills, the homeowner is responsible for the sewer lines running from their property to the municipal sewer main line. Any incidents or damage to the home resulting from issues with or damage to these lines are the homeowner’s responsibility. However, issues or damage originating from the municipal sewer main line or further up the system may be the municipality’s responsibility, so it is essential that the professional responding to a sewer backup thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident.

By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 09, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Grizzly Gazette   Swan Hills, Alberta

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