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Prevent sewer and stormwater backups

April 15, 2020

Spring is a critical time for sewer and stormwater systems. It is quite common for winter debris like sand, gravel, trash, and organic matter to collect in the pipes and can cause blockages. But this spring brings an additional threat.

There is increased usage of residential systems sewers due to the number of people now working from home. As a result, water treatment operators are noticing an increase in items that should not be flushed:

  • cleaning wipes, e.g. Wet Ones, Lysol Wipes, and similar
  • paper towels
  • diapers
  • facial tissues

These items clog filters and can disrupt water treatment operations.

Reducing the risk

There are a few things municipalities can do to reduce the risk of blockages:

  • Conduct regular inspections
  • Follow a regular maintenance program, including line flushing and clearing schedules
  • Encourage residents to flush only waste that the sewer system is designed for (such as in Edmonton’s YouTube video on this topic)

Please download our graphic and share it with your residents via social media, on your website, or even by e-mail. You are welcome to add your municipality’s logo if you wish.

Liability

A system blockage or back up does not mean the municipality is liable, so municipal staff need to be careful when handling calls. (See more about mitigating municipal liability in our January 2020 Casual Legal article on this topic.) 

Remind staff not to accept liability as there are defenses under the Municipal Government Act (MGA). If they say anything that might be interpreted as accepting liability, they are creating an estoppel to the MGA, which prevents AUMA from defending your claims and accessing your insurance program to cover the costs.

Municipal staff can say they feel bad for the circumstances a resident is experiencing. However, when they say or suggest the municipality will pay for damages, you are obligated to follow through without insurance support. Basically, the costs will be paid by the municipality, adding to the fiscal pressures your municipality might already be facing.

What to do

Contact the AUMA Claims Department immediately following an incident. We have experience with sewer and stormwater back-up claims and can support your administration team with managing these issues.