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Sewer FAQs

Q: What causes sewage to back up?

A: Fats, oil and grease (FOG).  FOG is a byproduct of cooking.  It comes from meat, lard, oil, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, baking goods, and dairy products.  When grease is washed down the sink, it sticks to the insides of the pipes that connects your home to the sewer.  It also coats the insides of the sewer pipes.  Eventually, the grease can build up until it completely blocks sewer pipes.  This can create difficult and expensive maintenance problems for both GAWSA and the property owner.

Flushing trash down the toilet.  Flushing the wrong things down the toilet can result in costly sewer backups.  Items such as paper towels, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, and food wrappers should never be flushed down the toilet, even if the item is marked “disposable” or “flushable.”  Disposable and/or flushable does not mean biodegradable.  If the item doesn’t break down like toilet tissue paper, throw it in the trash.

Here's a more complete list of what not to put down the drain or flush in the toilet:

What Not to Put Down the Drain or in the Toilet.pdf

Allowing tree roots to grow and enter the sewer pipe.  Tree roots can cause major damage to sewer pipes.  Roots inside a pipe can become tangled with tissue paper, grease and other debris that is poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet.  As tree roots grow, they place a considerable amount of pressure on pipes. This can cause pipes to crack or completely collapse.


Q: What do I do if sewage backs up on my property?

A: If the sewer backup is in a home or business, it’s best to call a plumber first to investigate the cause of the backup.  If you are a tenant, contact your landlord.

If the plumber finds a problem in the line from the home to the street, the repair is the property owner's responsibility.

If the plumber determines the problem is in GAWSA’s sewer line, GAWSA is responsible for repairs.

If the backup appears to be in the road or out in the environment call GAWSA at 541-679-6451.  If after hours, call 541-679-6321
 

Q: What should I do if my bathtub or shower is filling with water?

A: Call GAWSA at 541-679-6451 or after hours 541-679-6321.  In rare occurrences the backup can be caused by the public sewer.  GAWSA’s first response is to eliminate the possibility of a greater problem, like downstream blockages.  If the drainage lateral from the house is running slow or plugged, call a rooter-plumber.  A washing machine or dishwasher can cause bathtub backups to occur.  Do not run these heavy flow household items until the slow drainage is resolved. 

Customers are responsible for the sewer lateral line that runs from the house to the street.  If the backup is the result of a damaged lateral on the customer’s property, the customer is responsible for any repairs and cleanup.
 

Q: How do I know if my sewer lateral is clogged or broken?

A: A sewer lateral connects your home’s sinks and bathrooms to GAWSA’s sewer system.  A sewer line video inspection is the best way to determine if your sewer lateral is clogged or broken; however, there are signs that may indicate that there’s a problem.  A sink hole in the vicinity of the lateral, sewage that regularly backs up even with regular maintenance, foul odors near drains or outside where the sewer line is placed, and constantly clogged drains are good indicators that you should call a professional.  A toilet that gurgles after being flushed can also indicate that there is a problem.


Q: What do I do if I see sewer spilling on the ground or into the environment?

A: If the backup appears to be in the road or out in the environment, call GAWSA at 541-679-6451.  If after hours, call 541-679-6321.


Q: How do I clean up after a sewer backup?

A: After a sewer backup, carpets should be professionally cleaned.  If you decide to clean yourself, remember the bacteria in sewage is a health hazard and basic precautions should be taken.

  • Wear rubber gloves and boots, rain gear and other protective clothing.
  • Be careful to not let sewage come in contact with your face or eyes.
  • Protect cuts and scrapes and immediately wash any wound that comes in contact with sewage.
  • Wash all surfaces with hot, soapy water.
  • Disinfect all surfaces with a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after cleaning up.
  • Wash and disinfect clothing and cleaning supplies that were used.

For information about filing a claim for damages caused by a backup of GAWSA’s sewer system, call the GAWSA office at 541-679-6451 during regular business hours for an application and case review.


Q: How do I report sewer problems?

A: If you suspect there is a problem, contact a plumber first.  If the plumber finds a problem in the line from your home to the street, the repair is the property owner's responsibility.  If the plumber determines the problem is in GAWSA’s sewer line, call GAWSA at 541-679-6451 or after hours at 541-679-6321.

 
Q: What does it mean to keep sewers fat free?

A: When grease is washed down the sink, it sticks to the insides of the pipes that connects your home to the sewer.  It also coats the insides of the sewer pipes.  Eventually, the grease can build up until it completely blocks sewer pipes.  The buildup of grease restricts the flow and can block pipes completely, causing raw sewage to backup into your home or overflow onto the streets.  This can create difficult and expensive maintenance problems for both GAWSA and the property owner.

Garbage disposals don't keep grease out of sewer pipes and products that claim to dissolve grease may dislodge a blockage, causing problems further down the line.

Here are some guidelines for keeping sewers fat free.

  • Never pour grease down sinks or toilets.
  • Pour grease and oil into a can, store it in the freezer and put it in the trash when it's full.
  • Scrape food scraps into a can or the trash.
  • Catch food scraps with baskets or strainers in sink drains and throw scraps in the garbage.