Sewer Lateral Blockages 

What Should You Do When Your Sewer Drains Back Up?

1. Call for help

If you suspect that your sewer is blocked, you should avoid flushing toilets, and using sink, tub and shower drains until the source of the sewer back up has been corrected. Then you should immediately contact an approved, licensed plumbing contractor or the City of Brantford's Customer Services Department at 519-756-1360. If the City responds, the blockage will be cleared and a video will be taken with a copy provided to you with a determination of the cause of the stoppage for your records.

2. Locate you sewer cleanout and ensure access

Your home's sewer cleanout must be located and accessible. It's normally located in the basement where the sewer pipe exits the home (typically by the foundation wall or in the basement floor). Your cleanout will need to be accessible in order to unblock your sewer.  A clear path to the cleanout is required to allow specialized machinery to be used and the cleanout must be fully exposed. Some homes have been constructed with a two-way cleanout, normally located outside the home by the foundation wall where the internal plumbing exits the house.

3. Call for a Sewer Safety Inspection

Before any work can begin to unplug the sewer, a Sewer Safety Inspection MUST be done. It may be possible that an underground gas utility has intersected with the sewer pipe outside your home. This is known as a "cross bore". It can often sit without incident unless the gas line is damaged by mechanical equipment used to clear a sewer blockage.

To prevent the risk of a gas leak or explosion before clearing a blocked sewer, call Ontario One Call at 1-800-400-2255 for a Sewer Safety Inspection. The gas utility representative will locate the natural gas lines and work with the plumber or resident as required to ensure there is no potential conflict. This service is provided at no cost to the homeowner. Sewer Safety Inspections are treated as emergency calls and the Gas Utility targets a response time of 1 to 2 hours. For additional cross bore safety information, please visit: https://www.uniongas.com/sewersafety

What Can Cause A Sewer Blockage?

The most common cause of backed up drains or basement flooding in your home is a blockage in the sewer pipe connecting your home to the sanitary sewer on the street. This is most commonly caused by:

  1. Tree roots growing into the pipe and/or
  2. Too much fats, oils or grease build-up in the pipe and/or 
  3. Improper disposal of items such as rags, wipes, toys, garbage, diapers, sanitary napkins. Please note that "flushable" wipes are clogging sewers in our municipality as well as others across Canada as explained in the following video. Click to open "Toilet Paper - The One and Only Flushable Wipe" video. Click to open the video transcript.
  4. Structural concerns such as breaks and collapse of old deteriorated sanitary sewer laterals

How Long Does It Usually Take To Clear A Blockage?

Depending on the nature of the blockage, it may take 2 hours or more for a crew of 2 staff to clear a blockage and conduct a video inspection of the sewer lateral after it has been cleared.

What Issues May Arise During The Process Of Clearing A Blockage?

  • The owner will be asked to sign a form authorizing City staff entry to their home.
  • No cleanout may be found or the location is known but inaccessible.  
  • The cleanout cap and other internal plumbing is the owner's responsibility to maintain. Any damage in removing the cap is the owner's responsibility to repair.
  • In some situations the blockage will not be able to be cleared through a cleanout. Depending on the location of the blockage (private side or City side) the owner or the City may need to excavate so that the pipe can be repaired or replaced.
  • Any cleaning of the work area after the work is completed is the responsibility of the owner.

City Charges For Sewer Stoppage Service Call:

Our services to clear sewer blockages are now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At competitive rates, the City charges a flat fee of $400 per call during normal hours and $1,080 per call during after hours, weekends and holidays for clearing stoppages. This fee is inclusive of labour and video charges. A video of the entire lateral will now be taken after each response. Taking a video is essential to assess the structural condition of the pipe and undertake necessary repairs to prevent future blockages.

Effective January 1st, 2014, the property owner is now only responsible for the sewer lateral up to their property line where 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). From the property line to the wastewater main in the street, the City has responsibility for clearing the blockage and sewer replacement as appropriate. Of course the exception to this is if it’s determined that the City side of the sewer lateral is blocked due to inappropriate materials such as toys, or other objects/issues that have originated from the private side.

Sewer Lines diagram

The Sewer Diagram explains what portion of the sanitary sewer lateral the homeowner is responsible for versus what portion the City is responsible for on a typical residential lot with a house. The portion of sanitary sewer lateral between the house and the property line is owned by the homeowner. The portion of the sanitary sewer lateral between the property line and the sanitary sewer main under the road is owned by the City.

Homeowner's Responsibilities

  1. Call for a Sewer Safety Inspection through Ontario One Call at 1-800-400-2255.
  2. Sign a form to authorize entry and investigation by City Staff.
  3. Provide clear access and working area to the sewer cleanout.
  4. Prepare area around the cleanout for possible sewage mess by laying plastic or drop sheets around the working area of the cleanout.
  5. Pay for City services (if used) when the blockage is found to be on the homeowner's private property or on the public portion as a result of improper use.

City's Responsibilities

  1. Conduct an initial investigation by checking with the owner to make sure that the concern is not caused by an internal plumbing blockage from within the home. A plumber will need to be called in this circumstance.
  2. Once the Sewer Safety Inspection has been completed and the homeowner has signed a form authorizing entry, the City will proceed with restoration of sewer service which may include jetting and mechanical cutting.
  3. If a blockage is found to be in the City's portion of the sewer located between the City's sewer main on the road and the homeowner's property line, the City will excavate the sewer to correct the problem at the City's cost. If it is determined that the sewer service is blocked due to inappropriate materials originating from the private side, the property owner will be charged the cost of the repair.