Emergency Dispatch: (703) 335-7990

Customer Service: (703) 335-7950


English Korean Spanish Urdu Vietnamese

Prevent Sewage Back-Ups

Boots in Water

What Causes Sewer Blockages?

Blockages are often caused by grease buildup, placing items in your system that should not be flushed down the drain, soil settlement, misaligned joints, tree roots or pipe collapse.

Fortunately, main line sewage back-ups don’t happen very often –- less than 20 times each year. That’s proportionally low considering the almost 1,100 miles of sewer mains the Service Authority operates and maintains. It’s important to know in advance what to do if it happens at your house.

Sewage back-ups and other sewer related emergencies can be inconvenient, time consuming, and sometimes costly. You can help prevent sewage back-ups in your home by being careful about what you place in your sewer system. Do not put the following items into your system:

  • Disposable wipes
  • Grease
  • Diapers
  • Tampons
  • Paper towels
  • Antifreeze
  • Non-food oils and chemicals
  • Items that will not dissolve

If you aren’t sure, toss it in the trash can! Only three things belong in the toilet: Poop, pee and toilet paper!


Consider Getting Insurance

You may wish to purchase a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy that would protect you in case of sewage back-ups. Such coverage would pay for repairs and replacement of items destroyed by flooding far beyond the courtesy clean-up offered by the Service Authority. If you live in an area where a sewage back-up has occurred before, you may wish to consider getting this type of insurance; usually for only about $50 per year.


What to Do in the Event of a Back-Up

If a sewage back-up occurs, stop using any water in the house and move your valuables to the upper floors of your home. Then take immediate steps to seal sink, tub and floor drains. Plug toilets with something like a string mop or wad of rags. Try to determine if the blockage is in your household plumbing alone, or if it is in the main sewer line. Call neighbors and ask if they are experiencing any back-up or slowness in their drains. If so, the problem may be in the main sewer line.

If in doubt, call the Service Authority's emergency dispatch line at (703) 335-7982. The Service Authority has 24-hour response to emergencies like this.