Coping with Sewer Backups

General Information:

A sewer backup creates a stressful and emotional situation for the homeowner/renter. In some cases, it may cause health and safety concerns as well as significant property loss. A proper response to a sewer backup can greatly minimize property damage and diminish the threat of illness. Rapid Valley Sanitary District makes every effort to be responsive to residents' needs and concerns when a sewer backup occurs. The District has the sewers cleaned annually. Unfortunately, because a sewer is not a closed system, many things put into the sewer can clog the system. Large amounts of grease from restaurants, disposable (and cloth) diapers, and tree roots are common items that cause problems. The District has adopted rules prohibiting the discharge of any substance likely to cause a sewer obstruction, but there is really no way we can absolutely prevent this from happening.
Many homeowners' insurance policies exclude damage resulting from sewer backups. However, some insurance companies do provide sewer backup coverage. If you are concerned about the possibility of a sewer backup and want to ensure that you are covered, the District urges you to check with your home owners insurance company regarding the availability of sewer backup coverage. If the problem is in the sewer lateral you will need to contact a plumber or sewer/drain cleaning service. Please check your Yellow Pages or online to locate a local plumber.

Lateral vs. Main:

What is a sewer lateral? A sewer lateral or house lateral is the pipeline between the sewer main, usually located in between the street, and the building. The sewer lateral is owned and maintained by the property owner including any part, which may extend into the street or public right of way. More often than not, the cause of a backup in your lateral is from items that the line is not meant to handle, such as kid's toys, underwear, towels, diapers, paper products (other than toilet paper) baby wipes, keys and even false teeth. To avoid flushing these items, remember to close the toilet lid. What you flush down the toilet may not affect you, but it might cause problems for your neighbors! Another possible cause would be roots in your lateral. The lateral is the responsibility of the owner of the property from the house to the connection point in the street.

Ways to prevent backups in your lateral and the main line sewer:

The property owner can do many things to prevent the lateral from backing up. These same prevention methods can be used to prevent backups in the sewer main as well! Grease: Cooking oil should be poured into a heat-resistant container and disposed of in the garbage after it cools off, not the drain. Some people assume that washing grease down the drain with hot water is satisfactory. This grease goes down the drain, cools off, and solidifies either in the drain, the property owner’s line, or in the main sewer. When this happens, the line constricts, and eventually clogs. Paper Products: Paper towels, disposable and cloth diapers and feminine products cause a great deal of problems in the property owner's lateral as well as in the sewer main. These products do not deteriorate quickly, the same way bathroom tissue does. They become lodged in portions of the lateral/main, causing a sewer backup. These products should also be disposed of in the garbage.

Contact Information:

If you experience a sewer problem, please call RVSD at 605-393-1050. For evenings after 5pm or weekends you will be directed to our after-hours call center. State that you are reporting a sewer emergency. Backed up sewer lines, line breaks, sewage odors, and overflowing manholes are considered an emergency. If the problem is in the sewer lateral, the homeowner or business is responsible for correcting the problem. The owner of the property is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the sewer lateral from the building (or home) to the sewer main, including the connection on the sewer main.