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What Causes Sewage to Back Up?

When a sewer line backs up, it sends raw waste into your basement or bathrooms and causes a huge, unsanitary mess. But why does it happen? There are 2 main culprits:

A blockage in the sewer line


Most often times, the main line servicing your property becomes clogged at some point. Whether it’s from tree roots or household items being flushed down toilets, the result is the same. Eventually the obstruction causes a complete blockage and the water must go somewhere and it comes back up! To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, consider having your drain snaked once a year and be mindful of what you put down your drains. Specifically, don’t pour fats, oils or grease down your drains!

Heavy rains causing an overflow


You might notice when it rains heavily that you experience a sewage backup. Why is that happening? Basically, when there is too much water flowing through the city’s sewer system, the water seeks an escape and uses the main line that exits your home and attaches to the main sewer line as that escape. How can it be prevented? Make sure your building or home is equipped with a sewer backflow prevention device that is designed to stop water from coming back up into your property!

What to Do When Your Sewer Backs Up


Water from sewer system backups should be considered very dangerous. The water is grossly unsanitary and may contain bacteria and viruses that could cause serious illness. Special training and equipment are necessary to safely clean this type of contamination.

It is important to contact a professional who can identify the source and type of contaminated water you’re dealing with, in order to make sure that it is properly handled. 

Three Types of Contaminated Water

Category 1: “Clean Water”


This is water from a clean source, such as a broken clean water supply line or faucet. If left untreated, category 1 water can quickly degrade into category 2 or 3 water depending upon such factors as time, temperature, and contact with contaminants.

  • Water from a clean source like a broken water line

  • If left untreated, can degrade into category 2 or 3

Category 2: “Gray Water”


This water has a significant level of contamination that could cause discomfort or illness if ingested. Sources for category 2 water may include washing machine overflow; toilet overflow with some urine, but no feces; or dishwasher overflow.

  • May contain bacteria and viruses

  • Can quickly degrade into category 3 if left untreated


Category 3: “Black Water”


This water is grossly unsanitary and could cause severe illness or death if ingested, and any contact should be avoided. Sources for category 3 water could include flooding from rivers or streams, water from beyond the toilet trap, water from the toilet bowl with feces, or standing water that has begun to support microbial growth.

  • May contain untreated sewage, harsh chemicals, and microbes

  • Water from flooding rivers or sewer backup

Get 24-Hour Emergency Sewage Cleanup Services in Phoenix


Sewage backup should be considered an emergency and dealt with as quickly as possible. We are the water damage restoration specialists with specific training and expertise to safely restore your home or business.

For more information about sewage cleanup or to get a free estimate, contact Arizona Restoration Specialists today!

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