Sewer Back-Up and Blocked Drains
Sewer laterals are privately-owned sewer service lines that connect a property to the City’s main sewer. Sewer laterals transport wastewater from sanitary fixtures and drains in your building to the public sewer system.
Property owners are responsible for care and maintenance of the entire lateral from the building to the main sewer and all repairs to the private portion of the lateral.
Many older properties still rely on original sewer laterals that have become cracked, disjointed or damaged by earth settlement, tree roots or blockages from flushing inappropriate materials such as grease, “flushable” wipes or other sanitary items. If you notice that your plumbing fixtures or floor drains are draining slowly or backing-up it is very likely that your sewer lateral is blocked or becoming blocked.
- Public Portion - part of the sewer lateral owned by the property owner and located on the public right-of-way between the property line and the City’s main sewer.
- Private Portion - part of the sewer lateral located between the building and the property line.
What to do if you suspect a sewer lateral issue
If you suspect that you have a problem with your sewer lateral, please call 905-546-2489 and explain the problem to our staff. You may be asked a few simple questions to help determine the nature of the problem.
If the property has not previously taken advantage of the Sewer Lateral Management Program allowance, you will be given the option to use the City’s contractor to perform a cleaning and a Complete Sewer Lateral Investigation. When using the City’s contractor, the property owner or occupant will be required to sign a *service contract outlining each party’s responsibilities prior to the work commencing. Alternatively, you can contact a qualified, licensed plumber or sewer contractor of your choice to complete the same investigation, then submit all required documentation of the investigation to the City for a full assessment and recommendations. The contractor/plumber will advise the City if cleaning was able to resume normal sewer service, or if there is an emergency structural issue present in the public portion that requires immediate attention.
*Service contract - A City of Hamilton document, supplied by the City’s contractor to the property owner or occupant, which outlines roles and responsibilities with respect to the Sewer Lateral Management Program. The property owner or occupant must sign the service contract before the City’s contractor will perform any work.
Complete Sewer Lateral Investigation
A complete sewer lateral investigation is an inspection of the entire sewer lateral from the building to the main sewer and must include:
- A Closed Circuit Television Video (CCTV) recording (in colour, not black & white) showing the internal condition of the entire length of the sewer lateral.
- Green paint surface markings indicating the location of the lateral, its connection to the main sewer and any blockages/defects. Markings should be at least 1 foot long and include a minimum of 4 markings on the public side.
- A sketch illustrating and describing the condition of the lateral, including detailed measurements of the lateral and any blockage/defect locations.
Responsibility for Costs
When you choose to use the City’s contractor for the complete sewer lateral investigation, the City’s contractor will provide you with a list of fees you may have to pay. If it is determined that a *qualifying defect is located on the sewer lateral, the City will not invoice you for the investigation service. If a defect is located on the private portion only, or if the public portion defect is the result of *sewer lateral negligence, the City will invoice you the applicable fees for the service.
Should you choose to retain the services of your own qualified, licensed plumber or sewer contractor for the complete sewer lateral investigation, you may be eligible for reimbursement by the City for some or all of the costs you incur. To be considered for reimbursement, you must provide the City with all requirements of the complete sewer lateral investigation and the contractor’s original invoice.
*Qualifying defect - A structural deficiency within the public portion of the sewer lateral or a defect caused by roots from a City-owned tree which affects flow on any portion of the lateral.
*Sewer lateral negligence - When any part of the sewer lateral is improperly used to dispose of materials that are not intended to be in the sewer system. These materials may include, but are not limited to grease, toys, diapers, feminine hygiene products, personal wipes, etc.
The City of Hamilton offers a Sewer Lateral Management Program to assist property owners with eligible structural repairs, replacement or rehabilitation of the public portion of the sewer lateral that runs within the public right-of-way, from the property line to the main sewer.
When the private portion is affected by roots from a City-owned tree, and you choose to replace and/or rehabilitate the entire private portion, you may be eligible for a one-time reimbursement from the City for a portion of the costs, up to a maximum allowance as stated in the City of Hamilton Sewer and Drain By-law.
The Sewer Lateral Management Program is offered by the City of Hamilton as part of its ongoing commitment to upgrading infrastructure. In the event that a complete sewer lateral investigation leads to repairs, replacement or rehabilitation of the public portion, the City will consult the affected property owner to provide complete details of the work involved, including property restoration.
The City’s Sewer Lateral Management Program does not address basement flooding or other damage resulting from a loss of sewer service. Persons wishing to make claims for such property damage are to submit those claims to the City’s Risk Management Services for consideration. For more information, call 905-546-2489.