Sewer Backups Part 1: Causes and Prevention

Sewer Backups Part 1: Causes and Prevention
Recently Got Mold? received a call from a customer that just experienced a sewer back up. The goal of Got Mold? is create education and awareness, so today’s blog entry and Thursdays will focus on this issue in greater detail.
A sewer backup occurs when sewage from sewer lines backs up into houses and businesses. According to CMHC, this usually occurs in basements when sewage water comes up from the drains.
CAUSES OF SEWER BACKUPS
Sewer backups occur for several reasons.
RAINFALL
Heavy periods of rainfall can inundate public sewer systems with large amounts of groundwater and stormwater flow coming into the sewer lines. This means the sewer lines get too full and are incapable of handling the overflow, resulting in a sewer backup.
BLOCKAGES DUE TO TREE ROOTS
Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way into sewer line cracks causing extensive damage and may start out small, penetrating a small crack in the pipe. Unfortunately, as the tree or shrub continues to grow and the roots expand they can cause blockages in the service pipes and roots.
SANITARY MAIN
In some cases, a blockage can occur in a city sanitary main causing a back up into homes and businesses.
GREASE
Pouring hot animal fat down a drain will cause sewer backups because once the grease cools, it will attach itself to the walls of the sewer pipe causing other objects flowing down the drain to stick to the grease and cause a blockage.
TOILET PAPER and FOREIGN OBJECTS
When too much toilet paper, paper products (paper towels, disposable/cloth diapers, and feminine products) or foreign objects are flushed down the toilet, they can get stuck when they meet a bend in the sewer line causing sewer waste to to stick to the objects, resulting in a blockage and eventually a backup.
PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
To counter the possibility of sewer backups, there are several proactive actions we recommend.
INSTALL BACKFLOW PREVENTION VALVES
Backflow valves are designed to block the sewer line temporarily and prevent the flow of sewage backflows. We recommend that you consult with your plumber for such an installation as it depends on your type of plumbing. If your property is in a low lying location or near a river or lake, you may also want to consider installing a sump pit drainage system to prevent your property from flooding.
DISPOSE OF GREASE PROPERLY
Cooking oil should not be poured into your sink. Instead, pour it into a heat resistant container and dispose of it properly.
DISPOSE OF PAPER PRODUCTS PROPERLY
Do not flush paper towels, disposable/cloth diapers, feminine products, and other small objects down the toilet because they do not break down quickly and can create clogs.
REPLACE PIPES
If you live in an older home with older trees and shrubs, chances are they may be seeking moisture in sewer lines. One counter measure that can be taken is to replace your line and tap pipes with plastic and if roots are still causing issue, it may make sense to cut the roots periodically.
PROPER DRAINAGE
One of the keys to preventing flooding is to ensure that there is proper drainage around the property. Make sure that your eaves-troughs are not blocked and the downspouts drain the water away from the property. It is also important to make sure that the land around the foundation of your property does not slope inward, but rather outward to ensure that rain water flows away from your property and not into the foundation.
These are some practical preventative measures.
It is important to realize that where there is moisture, there will be mold, so actions to prevent sewer backups and flooding will create a healthier living environment. Sewer backups are particularly worrisome because sewer water may contain bacteria that may be hazardous to your health.
Our next blog, this Thursday, March, 29th, will outline the action steps required to minimize property damage and potential health issues if a sewer back up occurs.

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