Best Management Practices Toolbox
Clean Sewer Lines - Residential
Homeowners are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the sewer pipes that run from their home to the main sewer line. If these pipes become blocked, sewage may overflow into the home requiring expensive clean up. Generally, pipes become plugged with oil and grease, trash, and intruding tree roots. Putting chemicals down the drain to clear clogs sends pollutants into our waterways. Copper-containing compounds, for example, are toxic to humans and aquatic life. In place of chemicals, this BMP explains how to prevent blockages.
The purpose of this best management practice is to reduce sanitary sewer system overflows which can cause raw sewage to flow to the creeks, lagoons and ocean.
- Consider a professional inspection and cleaning. The older your home, the more likely your pipes may be in need of some repair. Moisture from small leaks in underground pipes attracts roots that can cause further damage. Look for “plumbing contractors” in the yellow pages. The cost of a routine cleaning or root removal is about $150 (as of 2007).
- Locate your lateral with survey documents. Your lateral is the main pipe that runs from your home to the street. You probably received survey documents when you purchased your home, and they will indicate the lateral location. If you do not have these, your city planning or public works department (http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dpw/) can provide them.
- Locate your lateral by looking for a cleanout. A cleanout is a pipe rising from the sewer lateral to above ground. It is used to access the lateral to clear blockages. It is approximately 4’’ in diameter and has a removable cap or plug. There may be one on your property and or at the sewer main line. A cleanout next to the main line may be under an access cover marked “S” or “sewer”. Laterals generally extend in a straight line from your home to the main sewer line.
- Prevent roots from entering your lateral. Once you have located your lateral, plant trees and shrubs where their roots can’t reach it. Choose varieties that do not have shallow, spreading roots. Roots seek out the water and nutrients available in sewer lines and can grow into pipes and block them. Problem trees include poplars, willows, figs, rubber trees, large eucalyptus trees, fruitless mulberry and the Modesto ash. For more information visit (http://www.sewersmart.org/prevention-4.html)
- To avoid clogs, Dispose of Oil and Grease Properly. Whether or not fats, oils and grease (FOG) enter the drain as a liquid, they harden downstream. FOG accumulates in pipes like cholesterol in an artery and buildup can block laterals.
- Put the following wastes in the garbage, not down the drain or toilet:
1. Rags and clothing
2. Medications and needles
5. Personal hygiene products
7. Paper products (other than toilet paper)
8. Animal or human hair
9. Dental floss
10. Food waste, especially fruit pits, egg shells and coffee grounds
- Close the toilet lid so that items do not accidentally fall in (e.g., children’s toys).
- Use a sink strainer. Keep solids out of the drain and instead empty them from the strainer into the garbage.
- Do not wait for a sewer overflow before you have your lateral inspected. Damage from a sewer overflow will be much more expensive than a cleaning.
- Do not put chemicals down the drain to clear clogs. These products can be toxic to humans and aquatic life.
- Do not use your toilet as a garbage can. Instead, keep a garbage can in the bathroom.
- Do not use hot water or soap to wash FOG down the drain. Properly Dispose of Oil and Grease.
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