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Sanitary sewer backup can be caused by a number of factors. The most common cause is due to a blockage in the main sewer line. Causes may include breaks in the pipe, the intrusion of tree roots, clogging due to an accumulation of grease or sediment, or foreign objects, system deterioration, inflow/infiltration of storm water into the system via low manholes, broken house lateral connections and cracked pipes.
The most common cause of sanitary sewer backup is cooking grease and roots that block flow. Other common causes of backup include foreign items that have been disposed of in the sanitary sewer drains such as:
Problems surface when the smaller laterals become blocked with roots, grease, sediments, or a collapsed pipe. When the flow becomes blocked, untreated waste water can back up into your home.
Public or mainline storm sewer backups can be caused by a number of factors. Heavy or intense rainfall events can overwhelm the storm sewer system. The majority of storm sewers in Shaker Heights were designed and installed between 1910 and 1920. They are designed to handle a 5-year or 10-year rain storm event. For rainstorm events greater than a 10-year storm, the storm sewers will overflow.
A blockage in the main sewer line may be caused by breaks in the pipe, an intrusion of tree roots, or downstream restrictions. Grass clippings, leaves, branches, newspapers and trash that enter the storm drain can also cause blockage. Shaker Heights Codified Ordinance prohibits any person from putting paper, wood, stone, or other foreign objects into the storm sewer system. The primary source of the foreign objects is the street catch basins.
Storm service lateral backups can be caused by a lack of maintenance to your gutters and downspouts. Leaves and debris often clog gutters and only allow a low flow of water to the downspouts. The overflow of water from blocked gutters, misaligned downspouts, missing or damaged gutters will allow the water to enter the home along the foundation wall. The soil surrounding your home becomes saturated and the water may penetrate cracks in the walls and the floor of the basement.
The service laterals can also be blocked by roots. Blocked storm water in service laterals will cause backup in footer drains and will also exit (force its way out) the storm laterals and enter the sanitary service laterals through cracks and joint separation. The sanitary laterals are always at a lower elevation so they collect the water that exits the storm sewer laterals.
The footer drain is designed to take away excess water from outside the basement walls and under the floor slab. The water flows by gravity to the private storm water lateral leading to the main storm sewer. The footer drain works in conjunction with the grading around the foundation, gravel over the drain, and waterproofing applied to the foundation. When wet weather occurs, excess water may flow along the foundation wall and enter the footer drain. The water then flows by gravity through the footer drain to the private storm lateral, or it may be pumped by the means of a sump pump. During a heavy rain storm, an undersized sump pump may allow for storm water to back up into your home.
The recommended minimum size for a sump pump is as follows:
Over time silting (fine dirt particles) or tree roots can partially clog the footer drain and excess water can build up along the foundation. Even when the footer drains are working properly, overflow storm water from gutters can cause too much demand on them. A footer drain lies flat along the footer, has little to no slope, and depends on gravity to relieve the water pressure. The best scenario would be the least amount of water to enter the footer drains.
Proper grading away from the foundation of a home is very important. The ground must fall away from the foundation at least six inches within the first ten feet around the perimeter of the home. This is a minimum requirement. The more slope the better. A negative grade towards the foundation will cause the water to run towards the house and eventually lead to a leaky foundation. When proper grading is performed, the water will flow away from the footer drain. Patios, sidewalks, and landscaping should not be pitched toward the foundation. Inspect and relieve standing water along the foundation and install covers over the window wells. Storm sewer lines may also have blockage, breaks, and settlement similar to those previously mentioned in the sanitary lines.
A backwater valve can sometimes prevent, or greatly reduce, the possibility of a sewer backup. A backwater valve is a fixture installed into a sanitary sewer service lateral either outside or in the basement. A backwater valve is an automatic device which allows water to flow out of the building, but closes when water tries to flow backwards. The unit must be cleaned according to the manufacturer to ensure that the valve closes correctly when needed. During a backup situation, do not add any additional water to the drains by flushing toilets, taking showers, doing laundry, etc.
Consult the Public Works Department prior to installing a backflow prevention valve.
Since water damage may occur at any moment, especially below grade and during a storm, it may be advisable to contact your insurance agent for information regarding special rider insurance for water backup to be added to your policy. Check with your insurance agent for more coverage information and pricing.
Property owners are responsible for the private side of the sewer system on their property (including the test tee). More than 50 percent of the City's overall sewer system is on private property.
The City recommends homeowners clean their laterals every three to five years. If roots are present, laterals should be cleaned annually. A certified plumber can inspect a home’s laterals for proper water flow and complete any maintenance or repairs.
In addition, property owners are responsible for:
Note: By City ordinance, if a resident does not make needed repairs and health issues are observed, the Public Works Department will declare a nuisance. The City will then make the repair and bill the resident for labor costs +25%.
Property owners may request the City inspect the public side of the sewer system once a year. Call 216-491-1490 to request this service.
Checking the City side of the sewer lines. Residents may call 216-491-1490 to request this service once per year.
During business hours (8 am-4 pm, M-F), residents can:
During non-business hours, residents can:
If a resident knows there are roots in the sanitary and storm sewer laterals, it is recommended that copper sulfate is used bi-annually. The general timeframe for copper sulfate applications is in the spring and fall each year. This product can be purchased from local hardware stores. Please read the manufacturer's instructions for proper handling and use.
If test tee/lateral work is needed on private property, residents may refer to a list of licensed contractors available through the Building Department.
For help with sewers during business hours call 216-491-1490; after business hours call 216-491-1499.