Information & Policies

Sewer Backups

Procedures If A Sewer Backup Occurs

GHJSA experience shows that most sewer backups are caused by problems with the property owner’s sewer lateral and not by blockages within the main sewer line.

Please note that in the City of Hazleton and Borough of West Hazleton, the property owner is responsible for the entire sewer lateral, from the building or structure to the main sewer connection where the lateral is connected to the main sewer line. The following procedures should be followed if you are experiencing a sewer backup:

  1. The Property Owner must first contact a licensed/certified plumber to inspect the sewer lateral.
  2. If the plumber is unable to open the blockage, ask them to locate and identify the problem area with closed-circuit television equipment and/or locating devices.
  3. If backups occur during heavy rain, ask the plumber to ensure that rain leaders, downspouts, sump pumps, and foundation drains are not connected to the sewer lateral. It is illegal for these items to be connected to the sanitary sewer system and the GHJSA will require you to disconnect the illegal connections.
  4. If television inspection of the sewer lateral verifies that the lateral is intact and no blockage is found and that there are no illegal connections as outlined in Item #3 (above), then have the plumber contact GHJSA at (570) 454-0851 to report results of the inspection. GHJSA personnel will then inspect the main sewer line for issues.
  5. All property owners should review their homeowner’s or property insurance policies to determine and confirm that they have proper insurance coverage for damages associated with sewer backups or sewer lateral collapses and for repair of the subject sewer line.


Backup Prevention Tips


Owner Responsibility

A property owner can help prevent their sewer lateral and public sewer mains from backing up. Being careful about disposal of certain products will make the systems more efficient, cause fewer backups, and prevent costly clean-ups.


Do not dispose of grease down a sink or wash it down a drain with hot water. Pour cooking oil into a container and dispose of it in the garbage. If grease is poured into a sink or drain, it cools and solidifies causing a constriction and eventually clogging the drain the sewer lateral or the main line.

Illegal Plumbing Connections

Do not connect roof drains, French drains, foundation drains or sump pumps to your sanitary sewer. This is illegal, and debris and silt will clog your line. Consult a plumber to correct any illegal connections.

Hypodermic Needles

Please do not flush hypodermic needles into the sewer system! The presence of needles in the wastewater collection system presents special and possible deadly problems for Sewer Authority employees. Please dispose of needles by re-capping and put them into a “sharps container”. (This could be any rigid plastic container such as a bleach bottle. Not milk bottles). When it is full, tape the container securely, and call your local pharmacy for advice on proper disposal methods. Please do not flush or throw them into the garbage.

Paper Products

Paper towels, diapers, disposable wipes (aka “flushable” wipes) and feminine products cause problems in the sewer lateral and public main sewer line. Dispose of these products in the garbage. They do not deteriorate quickly and can get lodged in the lateral or main line causing a sewer backup.


Shrubs and tree roots can make their way into sewer line cracks causing extensive damage. Roots start out small getting into a small crack in the pipe, and grow. Larger roots will break the line, which then allows debris into the line causing a backup. One way to prevent this is to replace old clay pipe with new plastic pipe. Be careful about planting shrubs and trees near your sewer line.

Sewer Odor

There are many ways to prevent a sewer odor from occurring. Under each drain in your plumbing system, there should be a “P-Trap”. If there is water in this fitting, odors or gases from the sewer cannot enter through the drain from either the property owner’s lateral or the main line. Check to make sure that unused floor drains and sinks have water in the “P-Trap”. Also, ensure that roof vents are free from bird nests, leaves, etc. Clear vents allow sewer odors to escape.

Backup Prevention Devices

There are devices that can be placed on or in the lateral to give protection against a backup. A licensed plumber can advise on such devices and their proper installation and maintenance. It is the responsibility of the property owner to decide the necessity of sewage backup protection or the need for additional homeowner insurance coverage.