Causes of backups and flooding
Problems in the sewer main
The sewer main, generally located under the street, may collapse or become et blocked by waste and debris. Sometimes pumping stations break down or construction activities in the area cause problems.
Problems in the pipe between your house and the street
If the pipe between your home and the main sewer line (called a lateral) under the street becomes blocked with debris, wastewater from your home may back up into the basement. The blockage can be due to:
- Accumulated grease, paper, kitchen waste or other foreign objects
- A collapsed pipe
- Tree roots
Melting snow and ice can leak through cracks or joints in your basement walls or floor.
The sewer system may not always be able to handle all the extra water during heavy rainstorms or spring runoff. Water or sewage may back up into the basement through floor drains or other plumbing fixtures in the basement.
River flooding sometimes occurs in some areas. Each spring the City clears ice from the Rideau River to prevent serious flooding.
The City is responsible for:
- Blockages caused by roots from City-owned trees
- If the pipe (called the lateral) on City property collapses, has misaligned pipe joints or other structural defects
The homeowner is responsible for:
- Blockages caused by roots from a tree owned by a private property owner
- If lateral pipe connections on private property collapse, have misaligned pipe joints or other structural defects
- If accumulation of debris in sewers occurs (privately owned and city owned portion of the lateral)
- Blockage caused by roots of both City-owned and privately owned trees
- If lateral requires replacement or relining that crosses the property line, then the cost will be shared on the basis of length of the pipe crossing private and city property
City maintenance of the sewer system
The City regularly cleans the sewer system. It is inspected and monitored using closed circuit television. Repairs are completed if problems are found, but unanticipated problems can occur, occasionally resulting in the backup of water or sewage. The City has expert staff on duty at all times to respond to these situations.
City response to a sewer backup or flood:
- City staff will check the sewer pipe near your house to make sure that it is working properly. If the problem is in the City's sewer line, it will be fixed as soon as possible.
- If the problem is not in the sewer, City staff can help you at no charge to identify the problem in your home’s connection to the sewer, if resources allow.
- If the problem is in the house’s wastewater drain system you will be advised to contact a plumber.
- If the problem is in one of the lines connecting to the main sewer, repairs may be the building owner's responsibility, the City's responsibility, or a combination of the two.
Responsibility can only be assigned after City staff have reviewed all data.
Making a claim
Property owners who have incurred damages to buildings or contents should contact their insurance companies for assistance. Your insurer normally submits a claim to the City for investigation and response on your behalf.
Claims can be submitted to the City’s Claims Unit regardless of whether a resident has insurance.
Tips to prevent flooding and damage
Residents can help prevent basement flooding and reduce the negative effects of flood damage with a few simple changes around the home:
- Slope ground away from the foundation to allow rainwater to flow away from the home.
- Seal window wells and cracks in floors, walls and the foundation.
- Direct water from downspouts attached to eavestroughs at least 1.2 metres away from the foundation. Downspouts should never be embedded in the ground or connected to the sewer system or footing drains.
- Direct water from downspouts and eavestroughs to a rain barrel.
- Ensure footing drains direct water to a storm sewer or sump pump, away from the foundation. Footing drains should not be connected to the sanitary sewer system.
- Ensure the sump pump is connected to the storm sewer system or empties onto the lawn at least 1.2 metres from the foundation wall.
- Ensure water run-off on the property is flowing to the ground surface or storm drainage system, not the sanitary system.
- Install protective plumbing devices (such as backwater valves) that protect against sewer backups, and inspect them regularly.
- Seal and tighten cleanout caps and backwater valve caps.
Reducing sewer backups with protective plumbing
Protective plumbing prevents water and sewage from entering your home through sewer connections during rising water levels in City sewers. The recommended measure to reduce the possibility of sewage backing up into your basement is installing an approved full port backwater valve. This protective plumbing device is designed to allow the flow of waste in one direction only (i.e. flow from the property towards the sewer line under the street).
The installation of a backwater valve must be done by a qualified plumber and conform to the building code. A building permit is required for any modification to the plumbing system.