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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, and insufficient system capacity due to illegal sump pumps, residential or commercial growth, or construction mishaps.
In home and business plumbing systems, the main cause is accumulation of grease, tree roots, hair, or solid materials, such as disposable diapers or sanitary napkins that are too large for wastewater pipes to handle. Such materials may cause major backups in city lines as well as in residents’ lateral lines. Another possible cause of a sewer backup within the city’s system is vandalism. Leaves, sticks, rocks, and trash have been found in manholes. We hope you will report observations of any such activity.
You can do the following to help prevent a sewage backup:
If the backup occurs in a city maintained line, the wastewater will overflow out of the lowest possible opening. Unfortunately, this may be a residential home or business 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.
First, take action to protect people and valuable property. Then, do the following:
The following may occur if you call the city:
Every attempt is made to prevent backups in the public wastewater system before they occur. Sewer lines are designed to prevent accumulation and stoppages.
In addition, we have qualified staff devoted to inspecting and cleaning wastewater lines throughout the city on a regular schedule. Even with our maintenance schedule, backups are often beyond the city’s control. Most backups which do occur are confined to the sewage pipeline, rather than backing up into a home.
In the majority of cases, a special rider can 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 usually request that it be added to your policy. Call your insurance agent today to discuss this policy option.
As with the majority of municipalities in the country, the city cannot assume financial responsibility for damages resulting from sewage backups that are beyond the city’s control. That is why it is important for property owners to confirm they are adequately insured - particularly if areas of their home lie below ground level. It also reinforces the importance of properly maintaining your homes plumbing system through some simple steps mentioned above.
On April 7, 2016 the City adopted a No-Fault Sanitary Sewer Backup Damage Reimbursement Policy (click here to learn more). The purpose of the policy is to provide a method for assisting homeowners with the financial burden of a sewer backup, which resulted from a condition within the city’s sanitary sewer system or lines, even when the city is not legally liable for the resulting damage. The City of Whitewater will provide up to $7,500 for residents to assist with clean-up costs, property damages and mechanical equipment essential to the habitation of the residence irrespective of whether the city is legally liable. Included in the $7,500 limit is reimbursement of personal property and/or possessions up to $1,000. The program has an annual aggregate limit of $30,000 per all occurrences. Please note the policy has a maximum of $7,500. Homeowners should check with their homeowner’s insurance provider to see if they are covered or if additional protection can be purchased.
Emergency crews are on call 24 hours a day to assist you. In an emergency such as a sewer line backup, or if you observe any vandalism associated with the wastewater or sewer lines, contact the Wastewater Utility during normal business hours at 262-473-0560. All other hours, please contact the Police Department at 262-473-0555, option #4.