A home's service line (also known as a sewer lateral) runs from the house to the mainline sewer in the street. In most cases, the property owner is responsible for maintaining the service line from the home to the curb, and the City is responsible for maintaining the mainline sewer and the portion of the service line from the mainline sewer to the curb.
It's important to keep roots or other obstructions from blocking a home's service line. For repairs to a service line backup, look under "Plumbing, Drains & Sewer Cleaning" in The Yellow Pages or online.
Reporting a Backed-Up Sewer
Sewer backups can be reported to (503) 823-1700. A response crew is available for initial investigation of sewer emergencies every day of the year. If sewage from the City-maintained portion of the sewer system backs up through sinks or toilets, call the City’s sewer and drainage maintenance staff at (503) 823-1700. City workers will check and remove blockages in the mainline sewer and the portion of the service line that the City is responsible for. If the problem is the result of too much storm water in the system, you may have to wait until the storm has subsided to have the backup resolved.
Preventing Health Problems from Sewer Backup
- Turn off all power to eliminate electrical hazards.
- Keep children and pets away from the area.
- Avoid contact with sewage or items contaminated by sewage. Wear gloves, boots and rain gear during cleanup.
- Hose down the contaminated area if possible, and wear goggles or safety glasses if you use a hose for cleanup.
- Protect cuts and scrapes and immediately wash a 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.
- Discard saturated wall-to-wall carpet and pad.
- Wash and disinfect clothing and supplies used in cleaning up.
- For professional help, search the Yellow Pages or online for water damage restoration and carpet cleaning.
- For more information, call the Multnomah County Health Department at (503) 988-3674.
Sewer Cleaning, Inspection and Investigation
Sewer system cleaning, inspection, investigation and repair are performed year-round. The nearly 2,500 miles of piped system, over 55,000 storm inlets and nearly 12,000 sumps are cleaned in cycles by crews using truck-mounted high pressure water jet systems. Some trucks are equipped with a vacuum system used to suck debris from sewer facilities.
All facilities are inspected on a cycle to determine condition. Sewer inspection is by closed circuit video or by physically entering the system. Entry can be as involved as using entry teams on supplied air systems. With this condition data, the city inventory can be tracked and assessed for repair needs.
Finding the location or source of a problem is done through visual inspection of sewer pipes, dye testing, and closed circuit video of the sewer main. By inspecting the inside of sewers, crews can determine the source of the problem, nature of the blockage, and condition of the pipe.
Sewer Repair Methods
Main sewer repair involves extensive excavation, shoring up supporting walls, removing and relaying pipe and connections, backfilling, and installing plates for temporary cover. Service lines which originate from private property and feed into the main line are a typical area for leaks or breaks. Off-road jobs outside the right-of-way require a great deal of manual work for excavation and hauling materials, rock, and dirt to and from the site.
Sump and sedimentation manholes separate the stormwater from sanitary water, reducing the volume and cost of treatment. Culvert repair diverts storm run-off and minimizes erosion and run-off. Shoring stabilizes trench walls and protects employees from cave-ins. Shoring also supports exposed utilities until the ground is restored.
Plastic pipe is a widely used material because it is lightweight and flexible. Its seamlessness makes it a good material for installation in unstable environments. Lightweight materials and compact construction equipment reduce the cost of repair and minimize environmental damage.
Main sewer construction disrupts a lot of ground. Intense use of space and conflicts with traffic are to be expected. Implementation of new technologies, such as no-dig techniques, ensures that the integrity of the City's infrastructure is maintained.
Paying for Sewer Repairs
The source or location of a sewer problem determines who pays for repair. The City is responsible for the public right-of-way (curb to curb), from one side of the street to another. The property owner is responsible for the area from the curb to the back of their property line. Easements (generally 10 feet wide) where main sewers traverse private property are an exception to this rule.
In the case of unimproved, gravel, dirt, or abandoned streets, plumbing records are researched by engineers at the Bureau of Environmental Services to determine responsibility.
The Vector Control Program responds to reports on rats or mosquito problems. The County will also bait the sewer system to control rodents. Contact: Multnomah County at 503-988-3464 or visit http://www.mchealth.org/.