Sewer Backups

Sewer backups are an unfortunate but common problem. The City of Chilton makes every effort to prevent such incidents, but they still may occur.  The following information is to help property owners and residents understand why backups happen, how they can be prevented and what steps you ss a homeowner can take to minimize damage and the threat of illness to occupants.

What Causes a Sewer Backup?
Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by a number of factors. They usually involve sewer pipe blockages in either main sewer lines or service laterals (lines between buildings and the main line). Causes may include pipe breaks or cracks due to tree roots, system deterioration, insufficient system capacity due to residential or commercial growth, or construction mishaps.  The main cause of backups are the accumulation of grease, tree roots, hair, paper products or other solid materials that are too large for wastewater pipes to handle.  Such materials may cause major backups in city lines as well as residents’ lateral lines. 

How Could a Sewer Backup Affect A Homeowner?
If the backup occurs in a city maintained line, the wastewater will normally overflow out of the lowest possible opening, which is usually a manhole. However, in some homes, especially those with basements or where the lowest level is even with the sewer lines, the overflowing wastewater may exit through the home’s lower drains and toilets.

What Should I Do if Sewage Backs Up into my Home?

Calling a professional restoration company is your best way to deal with sewage backup in your basement. However, here’s what you can do to mitigate the damage in your home before the restoration team arrives:

  • Evacuate the flooded area. Sewage contaminants are hazardous not only to humans, but to pets as well.
  • Turn off electrical power in the flooded area, especially electrical wires or appliances that might come in contact with standing water or wet materials.
  • If the main circuit breaker is in the basement, be careful. If you can’t safely turn off the power, don’t go near electrical devices.
  • Wear protective clothing like a facemask, eyeglasses, gloves, and rubber boots before walking through sewage water.
  • Shut off the valve for the main water line of your home. 
  • Notify your insurance company about the sewage backup. Remember that sewer backups are not covered by standard homeowners insurance, unless you’ve purchased extra endorsements for sewers and drains. 
  • Notify your municipal authority or sewer department if your home is connected to a public sewer. Contact Chilton Department of Public Works immediately at (920) 849-2451 during the week between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Call (920) 849-2335 at any other times or on weekends and holidays. 
  • Don’t use the water supply system in your home until the backup problem is fixed.  Do not flush toilets or drain tubs and sinks.
  • Open windows or doors to let fresh air in and ventilate the area.
  • Add some chlorine bleach to the standing water to help disinfect.

If I Call the City, What Will They Do About a Sewer Backup on my Property?

  • You will be asked questions about the backup timing, location and the property at risk, etc.
  • City personnel will check for blockages in the main line.  If found, the blockage will be immediately cleared.
  • If the main line is not blocked, you will be advised to call a Plumbing or Sewer contractor to check the lateral line.  Maintenance and repair of the lateral line is the owner's responsibility.
  • To minimize damage and negative health effects, you should clean up the property as soon as possible.  
  • If the sewer backup on your property resulted from blockage in the main sewer line, city personnel will explain what the city can immediately do to help take care of the problem.


What Can You Do to Prevent Sewage Backup into my Home?

  • Avoid putting grease down your garbage disposal or household drain.  It can solidify, collect debris and accumulate.
  • Never flush disposable diapers, sanitary napkins or paper towels down the toilet.
  • If the lateral line in your older home has a jointed pipe system, consider where the roots or large shrubs or trees near the line could invade and break pipes.  It is a good idea to know the location of your lateral lines.  Property maps can be acquired at City Hall.
  • If the lowest level of your home is below ground level, such as a basement floor drain, it may one day be affected by backups.  One way to prevent sewage backups is to install a back-flow valve on the lowest drains.  You can also use a plumber's test plug to close these drains when not in use.

What Does a Municipality Do to Prevent This Problem?

  • Every attempt is made to prevent backups in the public wastewater system. Sewer lines are specially designed to prevent accumulation and stoppages.
  • Maintenance crews inspect and clean wastewater lines on a regular schedule.
  • Degreasing chemicals are injected into lines in areas that are prone to stoppages, such as those near restaurants, apartments or high-density housing developments.
  • Even with our maintenance schedule, however, backups do occur. Most, however are confined to the sewage pipeline, rather than backing up into the home.

Will Insurance Cover Any Damage to my Home or Property?
In a majority of cases, a special rider will need to be added to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to cover damages related to sewage backups or water damage. This optional coverage is usually not very expensive, but you must request that it be added to your policy. Check with your insurance agent about this policy provision.

As with a majority of municipalities, the city cannot assume financial responsibility for damages resulting from sewage backups since most stoppages are related to conditions that are beyond the city’s control. That is why it is important that property owners confirm that they are adequately insured, particularly if areas of the home lie below ground level.