How Well Do You Know Your Building’s Sewer System?

Dec 04, 2018
Blog M Building Sewage 2018

By Thomas A. Knowlton, PE, Senior Project Specialist, Water & Wastewater Engineering

If you own a rental property, knowing the details of your building’s sewer system can be critical when one of your tenants calls with an issue. Damage from an overflowing or backed up sewer system gets expensive fast, and it is vital to fix sewer issues as soon as possible to protect the value of your property and the health of your tenants. Here is an overview of four ways you can avoid or mitigate expensive damage and repairs caused by sewer issues in your building. If you would like to learn more, please contact us.

1. Have Your Sewer Design Drawings Handy
Design drawings of your building’s sewer system are necessary to understanding and locating the important elements of your building’s system, including the location of any vulnerabilities or access points. If you don’t have design drawings of your building’s sewer system, you may be able to obtain a copy from your local records or sewer department. If needed, sewer drawings can also be recreated based on a survey of your sewer system (contact us to learn more). When there is an issue with your building’s sewer system, such as a backup or overflow, you’ll want to have these drawings handy to find where any blocks may be and locate the best access point to jet your line from. Having these drawings may also help to identify opportunities to improve the functionality of your sewer to prevent issues before they happen.

2. Inspect Your Sewer Lines
Most sewer systems have one or more sewer cleanouts located along the sewer lines to provide a point of access. When you have a backup or overflow in your building, knowing the location of your sewer cleanouts is especially important so that you can jet your line to clear out a backup as soon as possible. Sewer cleanouts are also commonly used to perform video inspections of sewer lines. Depending on your sewer system, you may want to consider having a video inspection of your sewer lines performed every 2 years as a preventive maintenance practice. Tree roots are a frequent cause of clogging in sewer lines and they can slowly cause drainage issues that your tenants may not notice until there is a major problem.

3. Maintain Your Backwater Valves
If maintained well, backwater valves are one of the simplest ways to prevent costly sewer backups. Backwater valves are essentially one-way valves, which can prevent backups caused during heavy rainfall that may flood your local sewer system. If placed properly and maintained well, backwater valves prevent flooding in your building, especially in basements that may be lower than your surrounding sewer system. Backwater valves are vulnerable to being clogged by debris, so it is important to have them inspected and cleaned occasionally to ensure they are functioning properly.

4. Know Who to Call
In the event of a sewer emergency in your building, you shouldn’t be wasting any time looking up contact information. Exposure to raw sewage can cause serious health problems and expensive damage to your property, so it is vital to have a plan in place to fix any sewer problems as soon as possible. Having the phone number of an industrial cleaning company handy will help you to act quickly to protect the value of your property and the health of your tenants. When selecting your vendors you may want to consider a service that is available 24/7, as sewer issues can happen any time.

Need help with your building’s sewer system? Milone & MacBroom is fully equipped to provide all the services necessary to analyze existing and proposed sewer systems, make recommendations, provide engineering design services, prepare cost analyses, develop design specifications and bid documents, and provide construction administration services. Let us know how we can help.