Loss Control Insights for Public Sector

Preventing Sewer Backups

man looking in sewer

Sewer backups, which are most frequent from April to June, can damage your wastewater collection system and your relationship with residents. Implementing an effective sewer management program can help prevent sewer backups while also protecting your capital investment in the system.

Put it in Writing
A written sewer maintenance plan can help keep everyone on the same page when it comes to inspection frequencies, regular maintenance plans, communication with the public and expectations for overflow response. If you don't know where to start, check out this plan template from the EPA.

Be Proactive with Inspections
Schedule sewer inspections and maintenance in advance, prioritizing problem areas (those with a history of blockages or flat/low slope sections). Lines should be inspected every four years, at a minimum.

Document Your Efforts
Documentation can help you understand the current state of your system and plan ahead for future maintenance. Keep records of all inspections and maintenance activities. You should also document problems that arise, including customer complaints and blockages.

Use Resources Wisely
Get the most from your maintenance budget by focusing your resources on the most effective activities. According to this report from the EPA, the most important maintenance activities are line cleaning, root cutting and lift station servicing.

Be Prepared for Emergencies
Someone should be on-call 24 hours a day to provide a quick response to emergencies, such as sewer backups. Lift stations should have alarms and dialers that alert a staffed location or the on-call staff member whenever there is a power failure or high water. Lift stations should also have redundant pumps and an alternative power source, ideally an on-site generator, available in case of power outage.

Reach Out to Residents
Educate your residents and commercial entities about the factors that make blockages more likely. Try creating and distributing an educational brochure, or post the information to your website (examples here, here and here). Social media accounts are a good way to provide residents with timely reminders or information about what to do if they experience a backup.

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