What sewer pipe belongs to me?
The pipe connecting a business or residence to the public sewer main is called a "private service lateral" or a "house service lateral." It is owned by and is the responsibility of the property owner.
Between the Home or Business and the Sewer Main
The length of your private house service sewer lateral can vary according to where on the lot your house sits and where the sewer main is. You own the entire pipe before the connection to the public main, however long a distance that is. That means that you probably do own sewer lateral that passes under the pavement on its way to the main.
Where Is It?
Since 1987 the District has required developers to supply "as-builts" that show where service laterals were installed. However for installations before that time or private installations any time, there is no public record of the work done on private property. We don't know where the private service runs, how long it is, or of what material it was constructed.
How Can I Find Out?
Observations such as looking for pipe exiting your basement or crawl space can be helpful. We can give "educated guesses" of where the public service that probably services your home or residence is. However, the only sure way to know is to hire an experienced plumber to explore this for you.
Why Should I Care?
Public Sewer Backups
We urge you to call the DeKalb Sanitary District at 758-3513 first whenever you experience a slow-down or stoppage of your sewer lines. We will send out our crews to check the public sanitary sewers servicing your area to be sure that they are flowing as they should. If not, we will correct that situation and probably relieve your problem as well.
Private Sewer Backups
But in many cases, the public main will be "running fine," and demonstrating a free flow of water, indicating that the blockage is in your private line and is preventing your waste from reaching the public sewer main.
The only remedy is rodding out the service yourself or calling a plumber or sewer rodding company to do it. This job is messy and costly, and is best avoided by not flushing anything but sanitary waste.
Preventing Private Sewer Backups
Don't Flush That!
Improper Flushing Causes Sewer Backups
Private service laterals are usually only 4 inches or 6 inches in diameter. They are intended for the passage of water and soluble waste.
Trying to flush disposal diapers, clothing, dirt, gravel, plants, foodstuffs, foils, plastics, or other items that do not quickly dissolve in water will block the sewer lateral leaving your home or business. Your sewage will quickly fill up the distance between the blockage and your residence, and you will find sewage backing up into your basement, bathtub, toilet, or whichever is the lowest point connected to the sewer service lateral.
Even today's "flushable" wipes and sanitary products can block your service lateral if too many are flushed at once or if a clog of partially dissolved material obstructs the flow of water out of your residence or business. Whether you risk flushing such objects instead of disposing of them in other ways depends on how willing you are to pay a plumber or sewer rodder to remove the obstruction if they become caught.
Flushing Hazardous Household Waste is Illegal
Don't Put These Common Hazards Down Any Drains
Potentially hazardous substances include:
- motor oil
- transmission fluid
- battery fluid
- oven cleaner
- spot and stain removers
- oil-based paint
- paint thinner
- paint strippers
- wood stains
- rat poison
- fungus and weed killers
- swimming pool chemicals
- fingernail polish
- fingernail polish remover
- biologically active substances
- photographic chemicals
More information is available from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency at IEPA Hazardous Household Waste Web Page.
Household Hazardous Waste Collections
Call the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Waste Reduction Unit at 217 785-8604 for information on Hazardous Waste Collections throughout the state.
Long-Term Facilities for Disposal of Household Hazardous Wastes as listed by the IEPA:
- Rock River Reclamation District, 3333 Kishwaukee Drive, Rockford, Illinois - 815. 987.5570
- Solid Waste Agency of Lake County - 847.336.9340
- Naperville Fire Station #4, 1971 Brookdale Rd, Naperville, Illinois - 630.420.4190
No Grease into Drains!
Grease is also a frequent cause of blocked pipes. While hot water may cause it to "melt," it quickly reforms into a solid plug that prevents the flow and causes backups.
Grease that is liquid when you pour it into the drain from your frying pan quickly becomes a stiff, sticky, and insoluble lump inside the pipe. Grease should never be flushed or put down sink or toilet drains.
Prevent Grease Buildup and Clogged Drains
- Use a strainer in every sink.
- Collect grease in used food cans and throw the cans into the garbage.
- Run plenty of cold water to flush particles down the garbage disposal.
- Don't empty coffee grounds into the sink drain.
No Trees over Sewers!
Many problems with blocking or even collapsing of house or business service laterals is caused by tree roots reaching for water that grow into and through the pipes, blocking or crushing them. Removing trees that grown over the path of the service lateral can go a long way in preventing problems.
A clump of roots that even patially obscures the service lateral can be the beginning of a clog when toilet paper or wipes that would otherwise slip through the pipe freely get caught up in the roots and grow into a solid mass. The first sign of such a problem is a sewer pipe that won't drain properly when clothes washers drain or dish washers empty. While smaller amounts of water still trickle through the mass, an onrush of more water at once is stopped and "bounces" back into the house or business.
Repair Crumbling Pipes!
In some instances, lateral pipe is crumbling due to age or substandard construction materials. Thinking ahead and having the situation evaluated and assessed by a plumber can make it possible to replace private lateral pipe before it causes problems.
Lateral Assistance Program
The DeKalb Sanitary District budgets $15,000 each fiscal year to be spent on a 50/50 basis with the City of DeKalb for grants and loans to homeowners who need financial assistance to make necessary sewer lateral repairs.
How to Apply
It is necessary to make application to this program before the work is done.
Grants and loans are administered on the basis of financial need.Jamie Smirz
City of DeKalb Office of Community Services
City of DeKalb Municipal Building Annex, Suite A
223 South Fourth Street, DeKalb
accepts applicants to the Block Grant Program.
Call her at 815 748-2371.