Wastewater F.A.Q.s

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Sewage is backing up into my house, who should I call or what should I do?

We recommend you first contact our 24-hour line at (281) 342-0559. We will assess the backup to determine if the blockage is in the public sewer line or the property owner’s private sewer lateral. The City will clear blockages that occur in the public sewer line and if it is on your private lines, you would be responsible for calling out a plumber.

There is a sewer odor in my house, what should I do?

The first thing to do is to make sure that all of the traps in your drains have water in them. If there is a drain that you seldom use, such as a shower or sink that rarely get used, run water into that drain for a bit. That may well clear up the problem. The other thing to do is to check under your house and make sure that there are no leaking drain pipes there. Leaking pipes underneath your house are not the responsibility of the City. You should contact a plumber to repair those problems. If these checks do not tell you the problem, please call our 24-hour line at (281) 342-0559..

The sewer manhole is holding water and will not drain, what should I do?

The City has installed inflow protectors to reduce inflow and infiltration (I/I) in to the City's sanitary sewer system and to prevent odors and gasses rising from manholes. These inflow protectors are designed to prevent storm water from entering the sewer manhole and the sewer system. Water may puddle under or near a manhole cover when fresh water flows into yards, sidewalks, and streets. The manhole will hold water until it evaporates. There is no action required by the home owner. Please do not tamper with these protectors or manhole covers

I see sewer water flowing out of a manhole, what should I do?

If you see sanitary sewer water flowing out of a manhole please contact the Public Works Department's 24-hour emergency number at (281) 342-0559. 

What causes a sanitary sewer to backup?

Most sewer backups occur because the line is plugged with grease, roots, or a combination of grease and roots. Backups are also caused by a sag (or belly) in the line or a sewer lateral that has collapsed. Never place anything in the system other than bathroom tissue. Products like baby wipes and rags and other products labeled “flushable” frequently cause backups because they do not disperse like bathroom tissue.

What kinds of problems do fats, oils and grease (FOG) cause?

When fats, oils, and grease are introduced into the sewer, they are usually warm and free flowing. However, shortly thereafter, they cool and harden and adhere to the pipe wall. A FOG buildup will eventually cause a backup and cause stoppages or sanitary sewer overflows (SSO's).

City ordinance requires Richmond restaurants to have grease traps to intercept, separate and contain their FOG discharges.

For the homeowner, there are relatively easy ways to avoid this potential problem. Below are simple steps, that would eliminate many time-consuming and costly sewer line repairs or blockages in your private lines:

  • Fats, oils and grease should NEVER be poured down the sink. Sink drains and garbage disposals are not designed to properly handle these materials.

  • Before washing, scrape and dry wipe pots, pans and dishes with paper towels and dispose of materials in the trash.
  • Avoid relying on the garbage disposal to get rid of food scraps. The garbage disposal chops up food into small pieces, which can still cause a blockage in the pipe. Use sink strainers to catch food items, and then empty the strainer into the trash.

What is the purpose of manhole covers?

The manholes circular metal lid usually located in the middle (sometimes to the side) of the street are for access to the sanitary sewer main. Only authorized city personnel can remove the manhole cover and enter the manhole. Please ensure the manhole covers on your property are clearly visible and easily accessible at all times. Please do not bury them or disguise them. Your assistance in keeping these areas clear will save valuable time when crews are repairing or maintaining the lines.