Call the 24/7 Engineering Operations Line to report a sewer backup: 608-266-4430.

Sanitary sewage has the potential of carrying pathogens that can cause a variety of illness. Be very careful to avoid contact with sanitary sewer wastewater and contaminated materials. A few tips on handling sanitary sewer backups in your residence:

Preventing Disease

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until it is properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • Avoid contact with raw material. Wear protective gloves and boots. Goggles are recommended when using a hose.
  • Make sure to wash with warm, soapy water.

While the Backup is Happening

  • Do not use water in your home. Any water you send down a drain will go into a backed up sewer pipe and come right back up into your basement.
  • If there is no risk of electrical shock, turn off circuit breakers supplying electricity to wet areas. Unplug electrical devices located in wet areas.

How to Clean Up Afterwards

  • Once the drain starts flowing again, remove all water and sewage as quickly as possible. Extracted wastewater must be disposed of in the sanitary sewer system. Septic pumping services or flood restoration companies will properly dispose of the wastewater. Alternatively, you can wait for the City sewer to drain your basement.
  • Hose down the affected area, then wash surfaces with hot, soapy water.
  • Disinfect surfaces with a 1:10 solution of household bleach and water.
  • Dispose of or properly wash and disinfect contaminated objects.
  • Use fans and/or a dehumidifier to properly dry area. Do not use heat to dry closed building interior spaces; mildew and expanded water damage may result. Fully drying an area can take weeks. If you are using fans, open windows to help air out area.

When You are Finished

  • Wash yourself thoroughly
  • Wash and disinfect any clothing and supplies immediately after use.

Safety Issues

  • Beware of electrical and shock hazards. If there is standing water in your basement where you have electrical appliances, contact your local utility company (Alliant Energy at 800-262-6261 or Madison Gas & Electric at 608-252-7111) before entering.
  • Do not use any electrical equipment while standing in water.
  • Wet surfaces can be slippery.
  • Cleaning solutions can be hazardous or even fatal if misused.
  • Read and follow all directions on cleaning product containers.
  • Never mix cleaning products.
  • Do not use ammonia.
  • Work in a well ventilated area.

Protect Yourself Moving Forward

  • Install a back-water valve. For more than 50 years, the plumbing code has required that a backwater valve be installed as part of the floor drain. Older homes may not have one. This device prevents wastewater from entering your home through the building’s service connection to the sanitary sewer main.
  • Maintain your existing backwater valve. The valve is a flapper or ball which will often stick open because of a building of lint, corrosion, or other debris unless it is inspected and maintained at least semi-annually.
  • Maintain your sanitary sewer lateral. Being required to unplug or clean sediment from your sewer every 1 to 3 years is not unusual.
  • Ask your insurance agent about coverage. Sewer backups are generally not covered by standard homeowner or renter insurance policies. Affordable coverage is often available as an endorsement.

Water in Basement but Not Sewage?

If you have water in your basement but it is not wastewater, most likely you do not have wastewater problem, but rather a stormwater drainage problem often referred to as a wet basement.

  • Use hoses and pumps and pump water into yard.
  • Avoid allowing water drain into your floor drain. This will overwhelm the City sewer.
  • Use dehumidifier and fans to dry out basement area.
  • Depending on how extensive the flooding in your home is, lift or remove -carpet in flooded area.
  • Check your gutters. Gutters that are improperly installed or full of debris, will cause storm drainage to collect in a basement.
  • Install extensions on gutters to drain water away from foundation of home.