Vactor By Your House?

The Sanitary Sewer Utility cleans the sewer mains using big green trucks, called vactor trucks, which are equipped with large vacuum hoses and water jet hoses. When these large trucks are cleaning, sometimes the suction from the large vacuum can impact homes near the cleaning location.

When cleaning the sewers with these vacuum hoses, it is not uncommon to hear gurgling or have some air bubbles in toilets or drains. This is caused by the air moment that the vactor creates while cleaning the sewer main. Operators try to minimize this air pressure differential by adjusting the water pressure, adjusting the rate of the cleaning nozzle, using specialty nozzles, and venting the upstream sanitary structure.

Issue: House Smells Like a Sewer

Sometimes pockets of air from the sanitary sewer can bubble up into your home while the mains are being cleaned. If a sewer gas smell is present in your home:

  • Run water in each sink for a minute or two
  • Flush all your toilets
  • Pour a couple gallons of water down any floor drains (the water in the traps may have been pulled out from the cleaning of the main)

Issue: Vactor Truck Blew Sewage out of my Toilet/Sink/Floor Drain

While operators do their best to prevent this scenario from happening, there may be some situations that are not within their control. In severe cases the home owner should contact Engineering Operations and discuss the issue at 608-266-4430. Hours of operation: Weekdays: 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Weekends: 9 a.m.-11 p.m.  We will work with property owners to help prevent this from happening again.

Things homeowners can do to prevent this from happening:

  • Install a sanitary sewer backwater valve: check Backwater Valve Program for eligibility.
  • Make sure your home is properly vented and have your vent stack inspected for any type of blockages (sticks, nests, leaves).
  • Do not install water fixtures over floor drains or clean outs on the lowest level of the home.
  • Make sure that the toilet seat is down when the vactor trucks are in the area of you home.

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