Sanitary Sewer Backups

There's Water Coming up From the Floor Drain.  What Should I Do?

Sewer pipes may become partially or completely blocked for various reasons.  The floor drain in your basement is part of the plumbing system that takes wastewater to the sanitary lateral outside the building.  The sanitary lateral is the pipe that takes wastewater from the building to the City's sanitary sewer main in the street. 
sanitary The property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the sanitary lateral from the building foundation to the connection (including the connection) to the City’s sewer main in the street.  The City is responsible for the sanitary sewer main in the street. 
tree sanitary
Most building structures built before the late 1970s have clay pipe laterals.  The clay pipe tends to split and pull apart over time which allows tree roots to grow inside the lateral pipe.  The root mass can get so bad that it slows or blocks the flow of sewage which can cause a sewer back-up in the building.  Read more about Sewer lateral and Tree Root Conflicts.  However, not all sewer back-ups are a result of a problem in your lateral.

So if you experience a sewer back-up please do the following:

  • If it occurs Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. call the Department of Public Works at (414) 769-2216.
  • If it occurs after business hours or on the weekend please call the Police Department non-emergency # at  (414) 769-2260.
The Public Works Department will dispatch an employee to check the City’s main sewer line to assure that the problem is not in our sewer main.  Even if you know it’s in your lateral, whenever you have the lateral cleaned, please give the Department of Public Works a call or report concerns online to allow staff to check the main sewer line.  What happens many times is the sewer cleaning company will dislodge and push the root mass or obstruction from your lateral into the main line sewer causing the main line sewer to back-up.  There is no charge to have someone from the Department come out and check the main line sewer system, but if you don’t call and it causes a back-up you may be held liable for the cost of blocking the mainline sewer.

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