Backed Up Sewer Could Be City’s Responsibility

Bruce Davis Sr.
Written by Bruce Davis Sr.
Updated October 21, 2015
plumber with camera in sewer pipe
A recurring backed up sewer may point to a bigger issue. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Several times a year, customers with clogged sewers find out someone else should foot the plumbing bill.

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This is because we find that the responsibility of the problem lies with the city, county or neighbor, and not with our customer. When you hire a plumber for a backed up sewer, they should always look at the big picture. 

Plumbing emergency

One winter, I responded to a call about a backed up sewer. I learned that it happened at least once a year, usually in the fall or winter.

Since this was my company’s first time at this customer’s house, I told the customer I wanted to investigate the issue rather than just snaking the cleanout in the garage.

I grabbed my prybar, went to the first sewer manhole downstream from the front of the house and popped the lid. Sure enough, the city main drain was backed up almost to the top of the manhole.

I called 911 right away, got connected to the city’s public utility emergency line and had a crew out there within the hour. Since they said they would be quick, I hung around to make sure my customer’s sewer line drained properly once the city cleared the main line.

It was a good thing because a couple of his side drains were still clogged. I cabled and tested them all.

Hiring a professional plumber

After getting paid by my customer, I advised him to pass this bill on to the city because it was their responsibility. I made this clear on the invoice.

My customer was very pleased, and had us provide a price for installing a backwater valve, which would protect his home in the future should the city sewer back up again.

The customer mentioned that multiple plumbers had cleared his drain and never checked the city’s main drain.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing if the past problems were connected to the city’s drain backing up, but any licensed plumber should look at the whole picture. Look into a plumber’s credentials before hiring. It always pays to check.

As of Oct. 20, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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