Thursday, May 07, 2020 - 6:00 PM

Fast Facts on Sewer Back-ups

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of St. John’s discontinued offering its sewer back-up service to residents.
We empathize with residents who are dealing with sewage issues and we apologize for the inconvenience that this is causing, however we are unable to reinstate this service at this time for the following reasons:

1. Occupational Health and Safety Concerns
In order to investigate a sewer back-up, City staff may come into contact with bodily fluids. This places our staff in additional risk of coming into contact with COVID-19. 

It has come to our attention that staff working in the wastewater division will be required to wear N95 masks as part of the City's OHS protocol to protect their health and safety when dealing with sewage issues. Due to COVID-19 and the demand for these masks, we simply are unable to access them for our teams to provide this service. Until such time as we can access the proper personal protective equipment for our staff, we unable to provide this service. We are currently exploring options to reinstate it safely.
2. A Focus on Core Services
While there is no doubt that experiencing a sewer back-up in your home is a top priority for any anyone going through it, there are private contractors working in the community who can provide this service. We have had to take the necessary step to discontinue this service while we adjust to new requirements for working during the pandemic.
What can a homeowner experiencing a sewer back-up do?
If a homeowner has a sewer back-up, they should still report it to the City by contacting Access St. John’s. Crews will investigate the main infrastructure.  If the publicly owned mains are functioning, then the homeowner will have to contact a private contractor to respond to the blockage within the property sewer line.
If the private contractor is unable to clear the blockage, report the attempt to fix your line to the City; ask your contractor to provide the City with information on the work they completed and what they believe to be the possible cause and/or location of the problem. The City will then review this information and either recommend a course of action to the property owner or excavate and repair a section of the sewer lateral to provide a functioning service.  
The City will not repair or replace a sewer lateral if it is still functioning.  
Preventing sewer back-ups
Some common sources of blockages include sending inappropriate materials down the drain (like grease or “flushable” wipes) that can build up quickly or over time, intrusion of roots, pipe sags or structural failure of the pipe.
One thing homeowners can do to prevent sewer back-ups before they occur is to only flush human waste and toilet paper and to ensure that grease and other substances not meant for the drain don’t go down their sinks.
Will the City reimburse me for the costs of a private contractor?
The City will not reimburse residents for costs, or private contractor invoices at this time. 
If a resident disagrees with Council’s position on reimbursement they can submit a claim to the legal department.