Author Topic: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?  (Read 12245 times)

Offline Zuladad

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Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« on: July 02, 2011, 10:07:33 AM »
I don't recall hearing that this happened, but is it possible?  If so, is there a preventive "fix"?  Maybe a homeowner activated shutoff valve that would prevent city sewage from going the wrong direction?

Perhaps a flood would cause sewage to push back into nearby homes that weren't flooded.  What if the local waste processing plant goes underwater? 

I wondered about this as I began to consider having city water to the house passed through several water storage barrels before coming into the house for regular usage.  I know that's a different issue, but the back-flow of sewage popped up as a question.

Clueless about many things of a prep nature, I turn to the Forum for corporate knowledge and advice.  Peace, mates. 

OldManSchmidt

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2011, 10:14:47 AM »
Yes it can and sometimes does.  I have a client who does courtesy clean up of homes for our Metro Sewer District when they have backups.  It is usually due to flood conditions. I don't know if there is a check valve that is rated for sewage use or not.

Offline Bubafat

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2011, 11:29:43 AM »
It also depends on your elevation with respect to the treatment plant.  Oft times they have to pump the poop uphill to get it there and if the power goes out...well you know how the saying goes: %^&$ always flows downhill.

Offline phuttan

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2011, 01:03:39 PM »
Sewers are generally gravity systems. In low areas, they can have pumps stations to raise sewage to a high enough level to gravity feed to a sewage plant. Either way a clog or power outage can result in backups. And like with any gravity feed system, the backups will effect the lowest openings first. A basement sink or toilet back up first. A home on low ground or the bottom floor of a highrise will be effected first. Look at a elevation map of your area. The higher your elevation compared to the rest of your area the better. It's similar to accessing the probability of flooding effecting you.

Pat

Offline Roknrandy

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2011, 01:20:51 PM »
Happens all the time around the country, heres a little proof

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWAW5MRAJmI

Offline Zuladad

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2011, 03:38:59 PM »
OH  - - MY - - GOSH!  Not only can it happen, it does!  Thanks, I guess, roknrandy, for the graphic confirmation of my worst nightmare.  Sure does answer my question about the possibility.

OK.  Now, please, anyone, . . . can the homeowner do anything to guard again this?  My guess is, probably not.  Shutting off some magic valve depends on knowing when to shut off the magic valve.  And how would you ever know that?  This could ruin one's day, especially in a shtf scenario (har, har, har).  No, not at all funny.

What a horrible video!

Offline edppcli

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2011, 04:05:09 PM »
Hi All
Just a few random thoughts
1) They do make check valves (one way valves) rated for sewage. This could be mounted between your basement toilet and the main stack. I'm not sure what "psi" these are rated to but for run of the mill flooding they are probably cheap insurance.
2) Don't put in a basement toilet.
3) A main line valve would be a 100% solution but several issues need to be managed including; when do I turn the flow off (maybe severe power outage and or flooding?), usually the municipal sewage company "owns" the pipes outside  of the house and of course when the valve is shut what do we do to replace standard toilet drill.
Personally if i was in a low area prone to flooding I would pursue all 3 options. Ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.
Cheers
Ed

Offline soupbone

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2011, 04:43:07 PM »
I had a problem with sewers backing up in the basement of a house I was living in. Not raw sewage, but it might as well have been - water and crud from the city storm drains. After my second cleanup (it was a semi-furnished basement) I went to a good hardware store and bought some expanding plugs. I fit these into the basement floor drains and had no further problems - I'd just take them out when I needed to use the drains.

I don't know how a backflow preventer would work. If it was in the main line, and you didn't know it was functioning, and flushed.......  Likewise, fitting one to every sink and W/C would be expensive, and result in your system being pressurized with every backup. Eventually, the weakest point in the pipes would fail.

soupbone

Offline Pathfinder

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2011, 06:20:19 PM »
Most of the communities I have known absolutely forbid the use of backflow prevention valves on any sewer line. I ownede a house on the old Lake Michigan bottoms north of Chicago and investigated this for my house, which was plagued with backup on a number of occasions.

In serious conditions - where they would do the most good for the homeowner - a whole neighborhood of houses with these would produce high pressures on the sewer system and damage it. At least that was the reason I was given.

Sounded to me like the cities were willing to flood hundreds of basements so they would not have to replace sewer lines or systems.

Offline Illini Warrior

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2011, 02:45:20 PM »
Most of the communities I have known absolutely forbid the use of backflow prevention valves on any sewer line. I ownede a house on the old Lake Michigan bottoms north of Chicago and investigated this for my house, which was plagued with backup on a number of occasions.

In serious conditions - where they would do the most good for the homeowner - a whole neighborhood of houses with these would produce high pressures on the sewer system and damage it. At least that was the reason I was given.

Sounded to me like the cities were willing to flood hundreds of basements so they would not have to replace sewer lines or systems.


Interesting ...... an TV episode of This Old House showed a sewer back flow /check valve being installed in the north subs of Chicago ....... never heard of any kind of restrictions on sewer lines once they cross your property line ....... not a cheap job ....... something like $5k back in 2005 or so ........ 


Offline Cedar

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2011, 04:45:27 PM »
Yes.. it happened to a friend and into their UPSTAIRS bathroom. The city fought them forever saying it was their problem and after 2 years of a constant battle, it was indeed the city's problem. Voila, they finally dug up the road, replaced the piping which is up to 100 yrs old and no more problems (and they finally remodeled their bathroom)


Cedar

Offline Xixor5

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2011, 12:01:04 PM »
I'm reading a book on practical preparedness for your family.  The author says everyone should have one of the above mentioned "check valves" installed to help prevent this.  He really stresses the importance of sanitation in a disaster scenario and how it can literally save lives.  Here's the quote from the book:

"The surest way to prevent sewage back-flow is to install a backflow valve on your sewage line.  the backflow valve allows sewage to flow in only one direction - that is, out of your home and not back into it.  If you are a handyman with a bit of plumbing experience, you can probably do this job yourself.  Otherwise, contact your local plumber.  If possible, have the backflow valve installed somewhere convenient to access.  this way, if you ever have a clog associated with the backflow valve, you can easily clear it."  - Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family by Arthur T. Bradley, PH.D.  Page 82.

Hope this helps.

Offline cdnshooter

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2011, 01:12:32 PM »
Got one in my home.

Offline Dan

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2011, 03:40:56 PM »
Just outside many homes, in the line going out to the street, there is a wye fitting with a branch coming up to grade ending with a cap. This is called a cleanout and is usually used for just what it sounds like, cleaning out or clearing the line from your house to the street. My clean out is in the flowerbed just outside my front window. This is a very common location and would be the first place to check when trying to locate it. Something the home owner can do in the event of a backflow situation is to remove the cap from this cleanout. Removing this cap will allow the pressure to be released  before entering your home. Since sanitary waste lines are gravity and most plumbing fixtures in most homes are above the cleanout it should help in all but the worst situations. If the back flow is under enough pressure or you have basement plumbing fixtures it may not be completely effective without taking additional precautions. You are still going to end up with a mess that will need to be cleaned up but better to have it out in the yard than in your home.  Find your cleanout if you have one and have a wrench handy. At the first sign of  anything backing up remove the cap.

endurance

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2011, 03:55:13 PM »
I'd imagine it really depends on the house as to how much it would cost and how hard it would be to install.  A poured concrete floor in the basement?  Fuggetaboutit.  Crawl space with access to the sewer line before it goes underground?  Probably pretty easy.  Seems like you could go with either a checkvalve or ball valve, each with it's own advantages and problems.

I've seen some of the video from Boston backflows and man, they have some serious problems there.  A combined sewer and storm drain system has created a nightmare scenario when they get big storms.  Uggh, sometimes I'm grateful for my septic system.

Offline phuttan

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2011, 07:17:45 PM »
One thing to remember when dealing with government at all levels, there are few true conservatives in government. Most politicians and other officials go by the progressive/socialists tenet that part of society must be sacrificed for the good of the rest. In other word, the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. If your putting a check valve or shutoff valve on your sewer line will adversely effect others/the system, they may try to stop you from doing it. Government sucks. Unfortunately, some government is.necessary.

Pat

Offline Roknrandy

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Offline mikem

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2011, 02:17:57 PM »
threads like these are why I love and hate this place :) now I have one more thing to worry about.

Offline Docwatmo

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2011, 02:34:31 PM »
We thought we may have problems with this during the Iowa Floods in 2008.  The water reached but did not breach the treatment plant.  However, because of the location of our house, we are approximately 40 feet higher than the plant and roughly 1500 meters from it (Small town) and there are plenty of places in between us and the plant to release pressure and sewage before it hits us.   But this was a major concern during the flood.  Fortunately the water subsided before it could get worse.

Doc

Offline Roknrandy

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2011, 05:58:48 PM »
threads like these are why I love and hate this place :) now I have one more thing to worry about.

We try harder  ;D 

Offline Komodo

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2011, 10:10:14 PM »
My house was impacted by the April floods in Illinois, and the sewer was useless as soon as the water reached the magic height in the lowest part of town.  I took off the cap from the cleanout that was the farthest from the house, as Dan mentioned above.  It worked great.  The water in the pipe got within 3 inches of the top outside, but nothing came up in the house.  I'd never heard of a check valve until reading this thread.  Now I have another option to look into. 

The flooding gave me an excellent opportunity to test the back up emergency toilet I had planned for use after an earthquake- a 5 gallon bucket, a nifty seat to make it more civilized, kitchen garbage bags, and pine pellets (which are labeled as horse bedding at farm stores or cat litter at pet stores).  It got the job done, and there was nothing more than a piney smell in the house for the two weeks it was in use. I highly recommend it as a cheap, short-term toilet option in a disaster.

Offline Mary60

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2011, 06:57:29 AM »
yikes! I live on the ground floor of an apt bldg.  guess all I can do about this is hope and pray it doesnt happen.
but if there is a long term power outage, I think everything would back up in here and it would be unlivable.  then I guess i would have to bug out with my tent...sigh...

Offline Dan

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Re: Can city sewage back up & overflow through home toilets?
« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2011, 10:52:46 AM »
Komodo, I'm glad to hear nothing backed up into your home and that your backup worked well.