FAQ's & Facts About Sanitary Sewer Backup's: Information for Homeowners, Residents, and Businesses

If you are experiencing a sewer backup, call Penn Township Sewage Authority first at 724-744-4333. If it is after regular business hours a recording will advise you of an emergency number to call. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you in emergencies. A PTSA representative will generally get to your home within 90 minutes of your call. The following information is offered to help property owners and residents understand why backups happen, how they can be prevented, and what steps citizens should take if a sewer backup affects their properly. The following questions and answers may be helpful:

What causes a sewer backup?


Sanitary sewer lines flow by gravity so they generally follow the natural slope of the ground. The sewer main lines that PTSA owns and maintains are generally from six to twelve feet deep, with some being much deeper. Sanitary sewer backups can be caused by a number of factors. They usually involve sewer pipe blockages in either PTSA's main sewer lines or in private sewer lateral lines, which the property owner owns and maintains. Causes of a backup may include pipe breaks or cracks due to tree roots, system deterioration, or construction mishaps. In home and office plumbing systems, a frequent cause is accumulation of grease, tree roots, hair, or other solid materials. Another frequent cause of backups in residences is illegal ground water connections to the sanitary sewer system. Such instances may cause major backups in PTSA's mainline as well as in private lateral service lines. Another possible cause of blockages in PTSA's system is vandalism. Leaves, sticks, rocks, bricks, and trash are sometimes found stuffed down manholes.

What should I do if sewage backs up into my home?


First, take action to protect people and valuable property:


Keeping in mind that ceramic plumbing fixtures such as toilets are fragile, quickly close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs. Tub, sink, and floor drains may need additional weight to keep them sealed. A string mop can be used to help plug the toilet opening.


Don't run any water down your drains until the blockage has been cleared.


A quick check with nearby neighbors will help determine if the backup appears to be in your service line, or widespread in your neighborhood.

When I call PTSA, what will they do when they arrive?


PTSA personnel will provide an on-site inspection to verify that the main sewer line servicing your home is functioning property this is a free service to you and may save you costly, unnecessary plumbing and repair bills. If a problem is found in the main sewer line, every effort will be made to immediately clear the blockage and/or repair the line.


If we find that there is no obstruction in the main sewer line, then it may be necessary for you to contact a plumbing or sewer contractor to check the condition of your lateral sewer line. (Maintenance and repair of the lateral sewer line is the owner's responsibility from the house to, and including, the connection to PTSA's main sewer line. The main sewer line is owned and maintaine by PTSA.) PTSA recommends that you solicit firm sewer service line repair or replacement quotes from at least 3 reputable contractors before authorizing any work. DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE PRESSURED INTO A QUICK REPAIR COMMITMENT.


To minimize damage and negative health effects, you should arrange for cleanup of the property as soon as possible. There are qualified businesses that specialize in this type of cleanup.

Is there anything I can do to prevent sewage backup into my home?


Avoid putting grease down your garbage disposal or household drain. It will solidify, collect debris, and accumulate in PTSA's mainlines, or build up in your lateral sewer line.


NEVER flush disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, or paper towels down the toilet. They could stop up your drains and may damage your plumbing system.


Consider the location of your lateral sewer line. Often times, roots, trees, or large shrubs near the line could invade and break the pipes.

What does PTSA do to prevent this problem?


Every attempt is made to prevent backups in the public wastewater system before they occur.


Sewer lines are specifically designed to prevent accumulation and stoppages. However, backups can occur that are beyond our control, particularly in times of inclement weather.


PTSA personnel are continually working towards minimizing the probability of sewer backups with a vigorous preventative maintenance schedule. PTSA remains diligent in the effort to find, fix, replace, and maintain the main sewer lines throughout our service area.

Will insurance cover any damage to my home or property?


In the majority of cases, a special rider will need to be added to your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy to cover damages related to sewage backups or water damage. The optional coverage is usually not expensive, but you must request that it be added to your existing policy. Check with your insurance agent about this policy provision.


How and where should I report a sewer backup?


In an emergency such as a sewer line backup, or if you observe any vandalism associated with the public sewer system, please contact Penn Township Sewage Authority at 724-744-4333.


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