Sewer Lateral Blockages FAQs 



01. If my drains start backing up in my home, what should I do?
You should avoid flushing your toilets, and using sink, tub and shower drains until the source of the back up has been identified. You should then contact a licensed plumber or the City at 519-756-1360. Once an initial investigation has been conducted to ensure that the concern is not caused by an internal plumbing blockage from within your home you will be advised to contact Ontario One Call at 1-800-400-2255 a for Sewer Safety Inspection. THE SEWER BLOCKAGE CANNOT BE CLEARED UNTIL A SEWER SAFETY INSPECTION HAS BEEN PASSED.
02. Why is it necessary to call for a Sewer Safety Inspection prior to unplugging my sewer?
It is necessary to prevent a possible gas leak or explosion resulting from clearing a blockage in a sewer that may have a possible "cross bore". A cross bore can be caused when an underground gas utility intersects with your sewer pipe outside your home and can often sit without incident unless the gas line is damaged by mechanical equipment used to clear a blocked sewer lateral.
03. What happens during a Sewer Safety Inspection?
When you contact Ontario One Call, a gas utility representative will arrive within 1 to 2 hours to locate the natural gas lines and work with the plumber or residents as required to ensure there is no potential conflict. The service is treated as an emergency call and provided at no cost to the homeowner. Click here for additional cross bore safety information.
04. At what point of the sanitary sewer line does your responsibility start and end as a residential homeowner?
As of January 1st, 2014, the property owner’s responsibility for the sewer lateral is now only up to your property line. Previously, the property owner was responsible for maintaining the sewer lateral from inside the building to the point where it connects with the City’s wastewater main on the street (i.e. the entire sewer lateral).
05. How much would it cost to have the City clear a blockage found on the private side of the sewer lateral?
During normal working hours of 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Friday, residents would pay a flat fee of $400 per call and $1080 per call during after hours, weekends and holidays for clearing stoppages. This fee is inclusive of labour and charges to take a video of the lateral which is necessary to assess the structural condition of the pipe and undertake necessary repairs to prevent future blockages.
06. If a homeowner hires a plumber to clear a blockage and it’s discovered that the blockage was on the City side of the sewer lateral, will the City reimburse the customer for their costs?
The City will not reimburse customers for private plumbing fees.

Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

Over 95% of normal tree root growth occurs in the top one metre of soil. This is where the life sustaining elements - oxygen, moisture and nutrients are found. Some varieties of trees such as Poplars and Willows have root systems that will extend beyond the top metre of soil. These varieties are not planted by the City of Brantford on City road allowances.
Tree roots are opportunistic and therefore will seek out sewer pipes ONLY if there is excessive moisture from a leak. Once attracted to the pipe, they may enter where there is a break in the pipe or leaking joint. The type of pipe used in your sewer line has a great deal to do with failure. Settlement and mortar deterioration often creates small openings in joints of clay pipe drains. When the system leaks, it pollutes the soil and provides an attractive environment, rich in water and nutrients for excessive root growth.
07. If City Tree Roots are Clogging Your Sewer, Will the City Fix and Pay for it?
Tree roots do not break or damage good quality sewer or other deep underground pipes; only pipes that are cracked and leaking may attract tree roots. For this reason, the City will not reimburse or pay for costs incurred in sewer root clean out.
08. If the homeowner’s responsibility ends at their property line what would be the City’s responsibilities?
With the homeowner’s responsibility now ending at the property line, the City assumes responsibility for clearing the blockages and replacement of the City side of the sewer lateral as appropriate from the property line to the wastewater main in the street.
09. Is the City responsible for any damages or the clean-up resulting from the sewer backing up into the home?
Customers are advised to call their insurance company when damages have occurred.
10. What are the main causes of sanitary sewer lateral blockages?
Sewer blockages can be caused by disposing of materials such as cooking oil, toys, or other objects that have been flushed down a household drain, sink or toilet. It can also happen due to a deteriorated sewer lateral and tree roots getting through cracks in the lateral.
11. What Can Be Done if Tree Roots are Clogging Your Sewer Lateral?
Mechanical root removal is a low cost, short-term alternative to replacing sewer pipes impeded by tree roots. Installing a permanent clean out access can make mechanical removal easier and less expensive. Replacement with P.V.C. piping may be the best long-term solution as it is much more resistant to root penetration providing it is installed property.

To prevent a sewer blockage from occurring:

DO place a strainer in your sink to catch food scraps and other solids for disposal to garbage.
DO scrape solidified grease and food scraps from your plates, utensils, pots, pans, food preparation area and cooking area into the garbage.
DO pour grease into a container. Freeze it and throw it in the garbage.
DO be careful when using a commercial cleaner or detergent which claims to dissolve grease. It may only transport the problem further down the sewer system.
DO have your sewer pipes videotaped by professionals if you suspect roots from a large tree fronting your property is the cause of the problem.
DO call the City when you suspect there is a blockage in your sewer pipe to help figure out the source of the problem.
DON'T pour grease down the sink drain or toilet! It will cling to the sides of your pipe and build up over time. Remember, cold temperatures make it solidify faster.
DON'T use your sink as a garbage disposal. Food scraps should be disposed of in the garbage can, not your kitchen sink. The scraps can get stuck in the plumbing, stopping other particles from making their way along the sewer line. As more and more debris gets stuck in the pipe, a blockage can form.
DON’T flush the following items down the toilet or pour down the drain:
Sanitary napkins
Hazardous waste
12. What recommendations can the City provide to homeowners who have a blocked sanitary sewer line outside of regular City working hours?
Homeowners should contact a licensed plumber or the City at 519-756-1360 or at 519-752-1031. Service is being provided by the City 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to clear sewer blockages.
13. What responsibility does the City have if tree roots from the boulevard damage or block a residential sanitary sewer line?
If there are excessive roots penetrated into the City side of the lateral, it is now replaced by the City. The homeowner is responsible for replacing the private side of the sewer lateral since only pipes that are cracked and leaking will attract tree roots. If the sewer blockage is due to the roots on the City side, the City will waive the charges for clearing the City side.