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Sewer backups and flooding

Information and resources on sewer backups and flooding.

Information and resources on sewer backups and flooding

Causes of backups and flooding

Pipes carry sewage and drainage from your house to the sewer lines under the street. Toilets and sinks in the home are connected to the sanitary sewer by a lateral pipe line. Foundation drains are connected to the storm sewer by a storm lateral pipe.

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

Spring runoff

Melting snow and ice can leak through cracks or joints in your basement walls or floor.

Overloaded sewers

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

River flooding sometimes occurs in some areas. Each spring the City clears ice from the Rideau River to prevent serious flooding.

Responsibilities

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)

Shared responsibility:

  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. If the problem is in the house’s wastewater drain system you will be advised to contact a plumber.
  4. 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.

What to do if your sewer backs up or your basement floods.

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.

Residential Protective Plumbing Program

What is the Residential Protective Plumbing Program?

The Residential Protective Plumbing Program (RPPP) provides financial assistance to qualified City of Ottawa property owners for the installation of protective plumbing devices, such as sump pumps and storm and sanitary backwater valves to prevent water and sewage from flooding homes as a result of increased water level (surcharging) in the City’s sewer system.

Who is eligible for the program?

To be eligible for the Residential Protective Plumbing Program, the following must be satisfied:

  • Applicant must be the property owner
  • Property must be:
    • Residential
    • Located in the City of Ottawa
    • Served by City sewers
    • Built prior to January 1, 2004 for protective plumbing work related to the private storm sewer services
    • Built prior to January 1, 2012 for protective plumbing work related to private sanitary sewer services
  • Protective plumbing device(s) considered as part of the rebate application shall not be installed for the purposes of maintaining, repairing or replacing existing protective plumbing device(s)
  • Property taxes must be current

Application

Step 1: Submit Part 1 of Application

Download Part 1 of the application or obtain a form from your nearest City of Ottawa Client Service Centre.

Ensure your completed application is signed and includes the following documentation:

  • Proof of ownership (copy of deed, land transfer or property tax bill), and

The following documents prepared by a licensed plumber:

  • Detailed listing of proposed work (included on application form)
  • Quote for the proposed work
  • Detailed diagram showing existing and proposed work (included on application form)

Applications can be sent via e-mail or mail to the Residential Protective Plumbing Program at protectiveplumbing@ottawa.ca or

Residential Protective Plumbing Program
Public Works and Environmental Services Department
City of Ottawa
951 Clyde Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1Z 5A6

Step 2: Part 1 Application Review

The City will review your application and will contact you regarding the status of your application, next steps and assigned RPPP file number. Please refer to your RPPP file number when contacting the City regarding your application.

Step 3: CCTV Inspection

Once the application is approved, contact your contractor to arrange for a Closed-Circuit Television CCTV Inspection. The CCTV inspection reviews the sewer lateral from inside the home to the street (main City sewer).

The CCTV inspection and report must meet the City’s CCTV requirements for format, reporting and equipment. The contractor must submit an electronic copy of the CCTV inspection and the inspection report via DVD or to the City service provider’s FTP site.

Once complete, the City or its service provider will contact the applicant to arrange for a site visit.

Step 4: Site Visit

A site visit is required to confirm the protective plumbing work required. This may involve taking measurements and photographs of the existing plumbing. The site visit is free of charge.

NOTE: More than one site visit may be required.

Step 5: Site Visit Review

Once the site visit is complete, you will be contacted to confirm the status of the proposed work and next steps. To avoid unnecessary expenses, a Site Visit Review should be received by the applicant prior to applying for a building permit and undertaking any of the proposed work.

Step 6: Installation

Contact your contractor to arrange for the installation of the approved protective plumbing devices. The backwater valve and its installation must meet the current requirements of the Ontario Building Code, the current City of Ottawa’s By-laws, Sewer Design Guidelines and the City of Ottawa Standard Tender documents for Unit Price Contracts.

The applicant or the contractor must obtain and provide payment for a building permit to perform the proposed work and should arrange for a final inspection by City’s Building Code Services.

The building permit application must include copy of the approved Part 1 Application and Site Visit Review.

For more information on the City of Ottawa’s By-laws.

For more information on the Sewer Design Guidelines or to order a copy, please email the City of Ottawa at StandardsSection@ottawa.ca. Fees do apply.

Note, the Sewer Design Guidelines contain applicable information regarding backwater valve installation, including but not limited to Sections 4.4.5 – Sanitary Backwater Valves, 5.7.5 - Service Connection Hydraulics and 5.7.7 – Storm Backwater Valves.

For more information on the City of Ottawa Standard Tender documents for Unit Price Contracts or to order a copy, please email the City of Ottawa at StandardsSection@ottawa.ca. Free of charge.

Note, the City of Ottawa Standard Tender documents for Unit Price Contracts contain applicable drawings and material specifications, including but not limited to Drawings S14 – Foundation Drain Backwater Valve Installation; S14.1 – Sanitary Backwater Valve Installation Type 1; S14.2 – Sanitary Backwater Valve Installation Type 2; S16 – Exterior Foundation Drain Backwater Valve Exterior Retrofit Applications (Exception Basis Only); S18 – Typical Depressed Driveway Backwater Valve and Standpipe Detail; and MS-22.15 - Approved Sewer and Miscellaneous Products Listing (S18.2-1 and S18.2-2).

Step 7: Submit Part 2 of Application

Download Part 2 of the application or obtain a form from your nearest City of Ottawa Client Service Centre.

Ensure your completed application is signed and includes the following documentation:

  • Copy of Building Permit, including receipt(s)
  • Original contractor invoice marked paid in full
  • Copy of Building Code Services inspection report

Prior to the expiration of the one-year deadline (as indicated on the initial approval), you must complete Part 2 Application and submit to the Residential Protective Plumbing Program.

Step 8: Part 2 Application Review and Rebate Processing

The City will review the application and notify the applicant(s) of the status of the rebate. Processing time depends on the volume of applications received. Once approved, a rebate cheque will be issued and mailed to the applicant(s) within eight to 10 weeks.

Application forms

Rebate payment and limits

How much are the rebates?

Item Maximum Rebate Amount
Permit $80 (current Building Permit fee)
Closed-circuit television video (CCTV) – Sanitary $100
Closed-circuit television video (CCTV) – Storm $100
Indoor sanitary backwater valve only $700
Indoor storm backwater valve only $500
Indoor sanitary and storm backwater valves $1,000
Outdoor storm backwater valve only $1,750
Sump with battery backup power (high gradient or flat roof) $1,250

The City will rebate up to a maximum of each of the individual rebates available at the time of the submission of Part 1 of the application form. Should the cost of the work be less than the amount of the available rebate, the City shall rebate the lesser of the two amounts.

Prior application(s) specific to the property, including those by previous owners, may limit eligibility for specific rebates.

Are there limits to the rebate availability?

Funding is limited. Applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis. If an application is not fully processed due to insufficient funds, the applicant(s) will be notified and the application will be closed. Applicants may submit a new application once funding becomes available.

Can I withdraw from the program?

The RPPP is a voluntary program and you may withdraw at any time.

Protective plumbing: Frequently asked questions

What is protective plumbing?

Protective plumbing prevents water and sewage from entering your home during a backup. These methods can range from installing a sump pump and changing the footing drains around your foundation to installing an approved backwater valve on the sewer pipes connecting your sanitary sewer to the City sewer system.

Function of protective plumbing in a sewer system

What is a sewer lateral?

A sewer lateral is the pipe that connects your home or business to the main sewer in the street. The property owner is responsible for the portion from the property line to the home or business. The City is responsible for the portion from the property line to the main sewer.

How does a sewer backup occur?

Excess rain or snowmelt or a blockage in the sewer system can cause an increase in water level or surcharge. A backup occurs when the increased water level (surcharge) pushes water backwards through the service lateral into the home through floor drains, sinks and toilets.

How can water enter my home?

How water can enter your home

Do I have to maintain my protective plumbing devices?

Yes, the property owner is responsible for maintaining protective plumbing devices according to the manufacturer’s direction.

Generally, a protective plumbing device should be maintained periodically to ensure it is free of debris, functioning properly, and that cleanout caps and access covers are firmly secured.

Will protective plumbing keep water out of my basement?

If properly installed and maintained, protective plumbing devices will prevent water and wastewater from a surcharging event from entering the home.

Protective plumbing devices will not stop water from entering through:

  • Cracks in walls or window wells,
  • Failed foundation drains or sump pumps,
  • Overflowing eaves troughs and plugged downspouts,
  • Poor foundation drainage,
  • Poor lot drainage, or
  • Water sources inside the house.

Where can I find further resources on protective plumbing?

Contact information

For more information on the Residential Protective Plumbing Program, please contact the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 or by email at protectiveplumbing@ottawa.ca or by mail at:

Residential Protective Plumbing Program
Public Works and Environmental Services Department
City of Ottawa
951 Clyde Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1Z 5A6

Residential grants for sewer backups

Residents affected by flooding three or more times could be eligible for a grant of up to $1,000 under the Residential Compassionate Grant policy for sewer backups.

To qualify residents must have:

  • Proof of three or more sewer backups during a 15-year period that are related to sewer surcharging as a result of significant rainfall
  • Own or rent the home during all three backups
  • Experience at least $1,000 of damage during the most recent backup
  • Property owners must have their property taxes paid in full
  • Sewer backups must be reported to the City within four months of taking place

Both the property owner and the tenant are entitled to apply for the program provided that they can provide the required information listed above.

The program is retroactive to January 1, 1995 but can be applied to any 15-year period since that date.

All backups that occur after September 1, 2009 must be reported to the City within four months of the event. You must submit your application within four months after the third backup.

For additional information regarding the Residential Compassionate Grant program, contact:

Residential Compassionate Grant program
City of Ottawa
Environmental Services Department
951 Clyde Avenue
Ottawa ON K1Z 5A6
Tel: 3-1-1
Fax: 613-728-6928
TTY: 613-580-2401
E-mail: compassionategrant@ottawa.ca