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Q: My sanitary sewer is backing up. What should I do?
First, immediately stop all water usage, as backups are typically caused by plumbing problems within your home or business. Turn off washing machines, dishwashers, showers, and anything that uses water.

Second, after stopping all water usage, contact the Environmental Utilities Emergency Line at (403) 502.8042 from 8 am to 4 pm Monday to Sunday to clear your service line. If the problem is in the evening/night (from 4 pm and 8 am), your choices are to call a private sewer cleaning contractor (see yellow pages under Plumbing Sewer & Drain Cleaning) at your expense, or wait until business hours for the Sewer Utility to schedule this cleaning (typically completed on the day of the call).

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Q: What will the dispatched crew do to stop the sewer backup?
The crew will check to see if the sanitary sewer main is flowing properly. If there is a blockage in the sewer main, the crew will remove the blockage. If the sewer main is flowing properly, the home or business owner may have to contact a plumber.

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Q. What causes blockages to occur?
Blockages can occur for two reasons. The first is the accumulation of material inside of the line. Draining unsuitable substances through the sewer, such as kitchen fats and greases or sand, clay or mud, can cause a build up and blockage in otherwise properly constructed sewers. However, the proper operation of a sewer line requires that the line be constructed "on grade", that is with a consistent slope. High or low areas along a line will cause small amounts of greases soap scum and other material to accumulate, eventually causing a blockage. "Clean Outs" provide the homeowner or sewer drain contractor an access point for sewer line maintenance.

The second cause of blockages is the presence of sand or roots entering the line through a break or other damage to the line. Tree roots will seek out sources of water, such as sewer lines, and will enter even the smallest cracks in the line. Roots will inevitably clog a sewer line. Larger cracks will not only allow roots to enter but will cause sand and dirt to enter the line, blocking the flow. As dirt flows into the line, a small "sink hole" or depression appears in the ground above the leak. These sink holes almost always indicate a problem with a sanitary sewer line or a storm drain, and therefore should be investigated or reported.

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Q. Where does the FOG (fat, oil and grease) come from that gets into the sanitary sewer system?
Mostly from meat and meat by-products that are disposed of down the kitchen drains.

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Q. What can citizens do to help reduce FOG (fat, oil and grease)?

  • Pour grease into a can, cool and discard it into the trash, instead of pouring it down the drain
  • Use garbage disposals sparingly
  • Scrape plates into the garbage instead of the disposal
  • Dry wipe greasy pans before washing them

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Q: What can't be flushed down a toilet?
There are a number of things flushed down toilets that upset the chemistry of our treatment facility and can cause volatile conditions in our sewers. A few examples are any mediciations, chemicals, oils, paints, paint thinners, antifreeze, batteries, and gasoline.

Things that may cause blockages are grease, diapers, cat litter, dental floss and feminine products. The Wastewater Treatment Facility takes pride in protecting our receiving water. We, as a community, need to be conscious as to what we do wash down our sinks and flush down our toilets so we can continue to live in a safe, clean environment.

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Q: Where does the water leaving the Wastewater Treatment Plant go?
We discharge our effluent into the South Saskatchewan River.

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Q: What is my responsibility as a home or business owner?
It is the home or business owner's responsibility to maintain the sewer lateral from the home or business to the sewer main. It is the City's responsibility to maintain the sewer main.

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Q: What is a sewer lateral?
A sewer lateral is a sewer pipe that connects your home or business to the sanitary sewer main in the roadway.

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Q: How can my sewer lateral be accessed?
Your sewer lateral can be accessed through your clean-out. A clean-out is typically found in your basement, where the lateral exits your home or business. A clean-out typically has a threaded cap 4 inches to 6 inches in diameter.

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Q. What causes sewer odors inside the house?
Sewage has a natural tendency to produce odors. All sewers have some odors. The plumbing system in your home is designed to prevent these odors from entering the house. If you are experiencing odors indoors, it is likely that there is a problem with the vapor trap (referred to as a P-Trap)

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Q. What is the purpose of P-Traps?
Every water fixture in your house has a P-trap. This "U" shaped pipe is clearly visible under sinks, and is present in some form on all lines draining to the sewage system. The "U" shape holds water, therefore creating a seal and preventing gases from backing up from the sewer into the house through the drain.

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Q. What is the purpose of the roof vent?
All houses have plumbing vents that extend through the roof.  These vents allow air to flow both in and out of the house plumbing system, helping water to flow through the pipes. Working in combination with the P-traps, gases from the sewer system are vented safely through the roof.

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Q. What are some of the problems that can occur?
When sewer gasses are present inside the home, it is usually the failure of one or more P-traps. The water in a P-trap will evaporate if the fixture is not used for an extended period. Seldom used bathrooms or utility sinks are commonly the source of sewer odors. The simple solution to this problem is to periodically run a small amount of water (one or two cups) into the drain refilling the trap.

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Q: Who do I call about storm sewer problems?
The City's Municipal Works Department maintains storm sewers. Storm sewers can be identified as the large grates in streets and near curbs.  To report a storm sewer problem please contact the Municipal Works Department at 403.529.8177

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Last updated: 5/8/2012 3:38:38 PM