Your home’s plumbing is connected to the public wastewater system through an underground pipe called a “private sewer lateral.” As the property owner, you own this pipe and are responsible for keeping it flowing freely and repairing cracks and breaks. Laterals do not necessarily end at the curb or property line, but extend all the way to the public sewer main, which often is located in the middle of the street. Dublin San Ramon Services District maintains the public sewer.
Preventing Sewage Overflows
These steps can help you avoid the unpleasant and usually costly experience of a sewage backup in your home.
- Do not pour fats, oil or grease down drains. After soaking a greasy pan, place a paper towel over the drain basket to catch grease and food particles as you slowly pour the water down the drain. Put the paper towel in your green waste cart. Collect waste cooking oil and grease in a container with a tight-fitting lid and bring it to a hazardous waste collection center. Find locations at www.baywise.org.
- Do not flush wipes, diapers or feminine hygiene products, even if they are labeled “flushable.” As homes age, roots often infiltrate sewer laterals. So-called flushable products catch on these intrusions, or on grease build-up, and form clogs. (Watch videos from Consumer Reports and the Water Environment Federation about so-called flushable products.)
- Don’t plant trees and large shrubs near sewer lines. Roots grow toward sewer line cracks in search of water, often forming root balls that clog the line.
- When buying a home, consider having the sewer lateral inspected. A licensed plumber’s video inspection may reveal cracks, breaks, offsets, and root intrusion. The pipe may need to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced.
A Simple Device Can Protect Your Home
An overflow protection device can prevent sewage from backing up into your home. If a clog occurs in the public sewer main or in your private lateral downstream of the device, an overflow protection device keeps the spill outside. While still not desirable, an outside spill avoids property damage, substantially reduces health risks, and can be cleaned up much more quickly and easily.
If you have an overflow protection device, inspect it periodically to make sure it is working correctly and not inadvertently covered with dirt. If an overflow occurs and the device is not operating properly, your insurance might not fully cover the cost of property damage.
If you don’t have an overflow protection device, consider installing one. We recommend that a licensed plumber install the device, since elevation and location are critical for it to function properly.