Sewage Back-Ups

Sewage Back-Ups

 An ordinary toilet ball and chain were photographed in a PAWSD sewer main line.

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it happens – blockage in a line causes raw sewage to back up into a home through drains and plumbing.  PAWSD has a sewer imaging program in place wherein all main lines are “scoped” with a camera on a rotating basis in order to ascertain structural integrity and identify and clear areas of blockages (see above).  However, because it takes approximately ten years to rotate cameras through all of its 85 or so miles of sewer line, PAWSD cannot guarantee that all main lines will remain blockage free, nor can PAWSD guarantee the integrity and clarity of service lines (sewer lines running from a home or business to the main line).

Cleaning up after a sewer backup can cost a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars.  The PAWSD insurance pool will only cover an incident up to $7,500 (no-fault benefit).  Therefore, in order to protect oneself from the costs of cleaning up after a sewage backup or flooding incident, it is important for every home owner to carry a rider on his homeowner’s insurance for flood and sewage backup events.  Click HERE for the Special District Association newsletter article on this topic.

What Causes Back-Ups?

Severe rainstorms, floods, and even spring thaws can put a strain on sanitary sewers and septic systems. Large volumes of storm water and ground water entering sewage systems can inundate them, causing back-ups into basements and on to private property. Blockages in sewer systems, such as tree roots, debris or non-water soluble substances such as grease, oil and cat litter can also cause back-ups. Also, items that are too large for wastewater pipes to handle (such as disposable diapers and sanitary napkins) are often flushed down toilets.

How Could a Back-Up Affect Me?

Your health may be impacted if a sewage back-up occurs in your home. Sewage back-ups can contaminate your private drinking well water. It can also pollute surface water (lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, and reservoirs used for drinking water).

Sewage contains bacteria, viruses, and other germs that can cause disease and make a contaminated house unfit for living. The health risks around sewage are dependent upon the amount of sewage, the types of germs that are in it, the amount of time it has been in contact with materials in the home, and how much and how long an occupant was exposed. Generally, the more solids (human waste) present in the water, the greater the need for prompt and proper clean-up of materials that came into direct contact with it. The most common illnesses one might acquire are generally
gastrointestinal (GI) distress and/or skin rashes/infections.

What should I do if sewage backs up into my home?
Keeping in mind that ceramic plumbing fixtures such as toilets are fragile, quickly close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs.  Tub, sink, and floor drains may need additional weight to keep them sealed a string mop can be used to help plug toilets.   

If you suspect the stoppage is in your home plumbing system, don't run any water down your drains or flush the toilets until you or your plumber have cleared the cause.

If the backup appears to be in PAWSD’s main wastewater line, call the PAWSD immediately.  

Click Here for further Clean Up information and Instructions



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