Sewage Backup Information

Do You Know Where Your Cleanout is?

  • This is the first question you will hear from our emergency service personnel if you have a sewer line blockage.
  • The cleanout is a pipe located near the property line and rises from your sewer line to about ground level and is capped. Quite frequently, the cleanout becomes buried or hidden over the years and is forgotten. In some cases, older homes may never have had a cleanout installed by the plumber.
  • As a property owner, you are responsible for your cleanout and backwater valve. If the cleanout is buried, a registered plumber should be able to locate and raise it for you. If it is hidden, you will need to make it easy for our crew to locate.
Property line CO

What Can I Do to Prevent Backups?

To protect your property follow these simple Do's and Don'ts.


  • Put diapers or sanitary napkins in the toilet.
  • Dispose of grease down the kitchen drain.
  • Plant trees near sewer lines.
  • Connect any drains or sump pumps to the sewer system.


  • Hire a registered plumber to install a backwater valve (plumbing code requires this) on the lowest drain line.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain the valve.

And, Just in Case...

  • Locate and keep accessible the sewer cleanout in your front yard. If you do not have a cleanout, have one installed by a registered plumber. The cleanout is the property owner's responsibility.
  • Check your homeowners insurance policy. If you are not covered for back-ups, call your agent for information on costs and coverage options.
  • If you experience a back-up, save all receipts related to any repair, cleaning or damages.

If an Overflow Occurs

  1. Discontinue inside water use.
  2. Call our Utility Division at 410-263-7970, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or our emergency number at 410-224-2140 after hours and weekends. (If there's no answer, wait 15 minutes and try again.)
  3. If the sewer cleanout is accessible, an emergency crew will be able to determine if the blockage is in the customer's line or in the sewer main. If the blockage is in the City line, the crew will be able to break the blockage, ending the back-up.
  4. If there is no cleanout, or if the cleanout cannot be located, you will need to call a plumber to assist you.

When your cleanout is accessible, the Department of Public Works can correct any problem that may be disrupting your service on the City side of the line.

What is a Sewage Back-Up?

The backup of sewage through the drains in your home or business is an unpleasant prospect. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your property.

  • First, an easy lesson in basic plumbing.
    • Wastewater flows through small lines on your property to the larger, sewer main in the street. From there, the sewage travels by gravity or pressure to the treatment plant. The flow is constant, with peaks in the morning and evening. Each day millions of gallons of wastewater safely reach the treatment plant to be reclaimed and returned to the environment.
    • Unfortunately, a blockage in the sewer line can interfere with this normally quiet, out-of-sight process. A blockage in the private or sewer main causes a backup through floor drains and toilets at the lowest point in your home or business. The overflow will continue until the blockage is removed or until sewage is no longer entering the line.

See also Sewer Line Facts You Should Know (PDF).