Sewage Backup Information

What is a Sewage Back-Up?

The backup of sewage through the drains in your home or business is an unpleasant prospect. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your property.

  • First, an easy lesson in basic plumbing.
    • Wastewater flows through small lines on your property to the larger, sewer main in the street. From there, the sewage travels by gravity or pressure to the treatment plant. The flow is constant, with peaks in the morning and evening. Each day millions of gallons of wastewater safely reach the treatment plant to be reclaimed and returned to the environment.
    • Unfortunately, a blockage in the sewer line can interfere with this normally quiet, out-of-sight process. A blockage in the private or sewer main causes a backup through floor drains and toilets at the lowest point in your home or business. The overflow will continue until the blockage is removed or until sewage is no longer entering the line.

If an Overflow Occurs

  1. Discontinue inside water use.
  2. Locate your sewer cleanout.  Information on finding your cleanout.
    • If the sewer cleanout is accessible, an emergency crew will be able to determine if the blockage is in the customer’s line or in the sewer main. If the blockage is in the City line, the crew will be able to break the blockage, ending the back-up.
    • If there is no cleanout, or if the cleanout cannot be located, you will need to call a plumber to assist you.
    • When your cleanout is accessible, the Department of Public Works can correct any problem that may be disrupting your service on the City side of the line.
  3. Call our Utility Division at 410-263-7970, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or our emergency number at 410-224-2140 after hours and weekends. (If there’s no answer, wait 15 minutes and try again.)

See also Sewer Line Facts You Should Know (PDF).

What Can I Do to Prevent Backups?

1.  Know "What Not To Flush"

2.  Hire a registered plumber to install a backwater valve (plumbing code requires this) on the lowest drain line.  Regularly inspect and maintain the valve.

And, Just in Case...

  • Locate and keep accessible the sewer cleanout in your front yard. If you do not have a cleanout, have one installed by a registered plumber. The cleanout is the property owner’s responsibility.
  • Check your homeowners insurance policy. If you are not covered for back-ups, call your agent for information on costs and coverage options.
  • If you experience a back-up, save all receipts related to any repair, cleaning or damages.