Peters Township Sanitary Authority
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Sewer Backup Tips

Sewer backups are an unfortunate but common problem in all sewer systems. The following information is offered to help property owners understand why backups happen, how they can be prevented, and what steps they should take if a sewer backup affects their property.

Where should I report a sewer backup?

During the hours of 8:00 – 4:30 contact the Authority Office 724-941-6709.
For emergency services after hours, weekends and holidays call our
Emergency Cellular ( 724) 263-7166.
Crews are on call 24 hours a day to assist you.

FAQ’s

What causes a sewer backup?

Sanitary sewer backups can be caused by a number of factors. They usually involve sewer pipe blockages in either main sewer lines or building sewers (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. In home and office 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 Sanitary Authority lines as well as in residents’ building sewers. Leaves, sticks, rocks, bricks, and trash have been found stuffed down manholes. We hope you will report observations of any such activity.

How could a sewer backup affect me?

If the backup occurs in a Peters Township Sanitary Authority line, the wastewater will normally overflow out of the lowest possible opening. 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?

  • First, take action to protect people and valuable property.
  • Keeping in mind that ceramic plumbing fixtures such as toilets are fragile, quickly close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs. Tub, sink, and floor drains may need additional weight to keep them sealed. A string mop can be used to help plug toilet openings.
  • Don’t run any water down your drains until the blockage has been cleared.
  • A quick check with nearby neighbors will help determine if the backup appears to be in your neighbor’s wastewater line, and/or widespread in your neighborhood.
  • Call a plumber if the problem is in your building sewer.

If I call the Authority, what will they do about a sewer backup onto my property?

  • You will be asked questions about the backup timing, location, the property at risk, etc.
  • Authority 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 your building sewer. Maintenance and repair of the building sewer is the owner’s responsibility from the house to the right of way.
  • To minimize damage and negative health effects, you should arrange for cleanup of the property as soon as possible. There are qualified businesses that specialize in this type of cleanup.
  • If the sewer backup onto your property resulted from blockage in the main sewer line, Authority personnel will explain what the Authority can immediately do to help take care of the problem.

Is there anything I can 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 in City lines, or build up in your own system.
  • Never flush disposable diapers, sanitary napkins or paper towels down the toilet. They could stop up your drains and may damage your plumbing system.
  • If the building sewer in your older home has a jointed pipe system, consider whether the roots of large shrubs or trees near the line could invade and break pipes. It is a good idea to know the location of your building sewer. You can call the Authority for assistance in locating your building sewer.
  • If the lowest level of your home is below ground level, such as a basement floor drain, it may one day be affected by a backup. One way to prevent sewage backup through such below ground areas is to install a backwater valve on the lowest drain(s). Visit Backwater Valve for more information. You can also use a plumber’s test plug to close these drains when not in use.
  • For further information about preventive measures, contact a plumber or plumbing supply dealer.

What does the Authority do to prevent this problem?

  • Every attempt is made to prevent backups in the public wastewater system before they occur. Sewer lines are specially designed to prevent accumulation and stoppages.
  • In addition, we have maintenance crews that are devoted to inspecting and cleaning wastewater lines throughout the Authority’s service area on a regular schedule.
  • Even with our maintenance schedule, however, backups are often beyond Authority control. Most that do occur are confined to the sewage pipeline rather than backing up into a home.

Will insurance cover any damage to my home or property?

In the 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 usually request that it be added to your policy. Check with your insurance agent about this policy provision.