How a Sewer System Works
The sewage system carries wastewater from inside homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant. Within this system, the pipes that connect private properties to the main service lines are called service laterals. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of service laterals from their buildings until the pipes transition onto public property at the cleanout (generally within the street right-of-way). For more information regarding owner maintenance requirements of service laterals, contact the City of Lexington Public Works Department at (336) 248-3930.
What is a sewage spill?
A sewage spill occurs when wastewater leaks from a broken pipe or backs up and overflows through a manhole or cleanout. If it is not contained within a short amount of time, this sewage will flow over land and may eventually enter a drainage system or a local stream or lake. A sewage spill is sometimes called a sanitary sewer overflow.
Signs of a Sewer Spill
Sewage spills may be water gushing from a manhole or a slow leak. The sewage is likely to be gray and will probably stink. As good stewards, citizens should immediately report:
• Drains backing inside of your building(s)
• Unaccounted for wet areas (ground/landscape around a building, sidewalks, external walls)
• Water leaking or gushing around manhole lids, cleanouts, or outside drains.
Common Causes of Sewage Spills
• Grease is the most common cause of pipe blockages that lead to overflows. Grease builds in pipes and eventually blocks the flow of wastewater. It is important to never put grease, fats or oils down any drain that leads to the sewer system! Grease gets into the sewer from household drains and from poorly maintained commercial grease traps and interceptors.
• Structural problems caused by tree roots, broken/cracked pipes, missing or broken cleanout caps, or undersized sewers can cause blockages and spills.
• Sewage pump failure caused by lack of maintenance, obstruction, or an electrical problem can also lead to wastewater backing up in a system. (Note: Sewage pumps are typically used when the City’s sewer main is elevated more than the private service line. Not all private service lines use them.)
• Infiltration and inflow happen when groundwater or rainwater enters the wastewater system through pipe defects and illegal connections. Pipes are not large enough to carry rain water along with wastewater and this can cause wastewater to back up in a system.
How to Dispose of Grease
DO NOT POUR GREASE DOWN THE DRAIN!
• Allow grease to cool to a safe temperature after cooking
• Use a container with a re-sealable lid
• Pour the cooled oil and grease into the container
• Place lid on container and dispose of in the garbage
• Scrape or wipe cookware using a paper towel or spatula into the garbage before washing.
CAUTION: Hot oils and grease will burn; allow oils and grease to cool before handling.
Cómo Deshacerse de Grasa
Sólo Para Residential
NO EN LOS DRENAJE!!!
• Permita que la grasa o aceite se enfria.
• Utilice un envase que tenga una tapa que usted pueda cerrar.
• Ponga el aceite o grasa en un envase seguro.
• Ponga la tapa en el envase y disponga en la basura.
• Raspe o limpie el sarten usando una toalla de papel o spatula en la basura antes de lavar.
Precaución: Permittan que aceites y grasa de cocinar se enfrien antes de tocar.
Who is Responsible?
You are responsible for a sewage spill caused by a blockage or break within your private service sewer line(s). Allowing sewage from your property to discharge to a gutter, storm drain, or a waterway may subject you to penalties and/or out-of-pocket costs to reimburse the City for clean-up and enforcement efforts.
If there is a spill caused by a blockage or break in one of the City’s main wastewater trunk lines, please report it to the Public Works Department. During normal business hours, call (336) 248-3930. After 5:00 p.m. and on weekends, call (336) 248-2337.
How Landlords Can Prevent Sewage Spills
Landlords can prevent grease blockages by educating their tenants about proper grease disposal. This includes never pouring grease down garbage disposals, drains, or toilets. Plates and pans should be scraped into the trash before being washed.
Other ways landlords can reduce the risk of sewage spills include:
• Perform routine inspections of your pipes
• Periodically clean pipes to eliminate grease, debris and roots
• Repair any structural problems
• Stop any rainwater entering your pipes.
How to Respond to a Sewage Spill from Your Private Service Line
A quick response is essential. Having the necessary materials, contact information, and a plan of action will allow you to quickly respond to a sewer spill. You or a contractor working on your behalf are required to immediately:
• City of Lexington Stormwater program at (336) 248-3930
• City of Lexington Public Works Maintenance Department at (336) 248-3930 during normal business hours or at (336) 248-2337 after normal business hours
• North Carolina’s Department of Water Quality at their 24-hour emergency response number (800)-858-0368 for sewage spills that reach waters of the state or which are 500 gallons or larger.
Control and minimize the spill
1. Keep spills contained on private property and out of gutters, storm drains, and public waterways by shutting off or not using the water.
2. Use sandbags, dirt, and/or plastic sheeting to contain the spilled sewage. Find the source(s) of the spill and stop it (see the Common Causes of Sewage Spills above). Ideally, you should call a plumbing professional to clear blockages and make necessary repairs.
3. Clean up the spilled sewage (both solids & liquids) and properly dispose of it. Small spills (< 25 gallons) can be cleaned up with a mop and a bucket whereas larger spills (> 25 gallons) require mechanical methods such as pumping and/or vacuuming and should be handled by an environmental clean-up contractor. Affected areas can include, but are not limited to the ground, the storm drainage system, and waterways such as streams, ponds, and wetlands. Proper disposal of sewage consists of disposing of it in a permitted treatment system. Failure to respond promptly often results in much higher cost of cleanup. Apply hydrated lime to reduce bacteria levels in the affected areas (hydrated lime is white powder lime available at most home improvement stores).
Caution: Do not apply lime to waterways or in the storm drainage system!