Troubleshooting sewer issues

blocked_sewer_pipe_800x500.jpg

We manage and maintain wastewater systems from our network up to your property connection point.

The connection point is often found on the property boundary. From this connection point, your home is connected to the sewer system by a single pipe.

Each connection has points for access, inspection, repair and surcharge. Any pipes or fittings between here and your property are your responsibility to maintain. 

Fittings on your property

Learn about the pipes & fittings that you'll find on your property and how to maintain your connection.

Overflow relief gully

ORG_800x600pc.png  

The overflow relief gully (ORG) usually has a loose grated lid which allows sewage to surcharge if a blockage or significant wet weather event occurs to prevent flooding inside your home.

The ORG should be a minimum of 75 mm above ground level to stop surface water and stormwater entering the sewer system.

All your wastewater from the laundry, kitchen, bath and shower goes through the ORG so it needs to be lower than all the drains inside your house.

 

Vertical inspection shaft

VIS_800x600px.png

A vertical inspection shaft (VIS) usually has a small concrete surround and a flat PVC cover. They are located within your property, near the boundary where your drains meet Council’s sewer system. Removing this cover allows you to identify a blockage or problem in the system.

If the VIS is empty, the blockage must be within your property and you should contact a local plumber. If the shaft is full or partly full, it is likely to be Council’s responsibility, and you should report the issue or contact us.

Stormwater

Stormwater includes water collected from roofs, gutters, downpipes, driveways, lawns and any other surface during rainfall events. Our sewer system is not designed to carry or treat stormwater. Excessive stormwater in the sewer system can cause surcharges.

A sewer surcharge occurs when the sewer system is overloaded beyond its design capacity. This often results in sewer coming out of manholes and private overflow relief gullies.

Directing stormwater into Council’s sewer system is illegal. Under the Section 638 of the Local Government Act, you could receive a penalty of up to $2,200 if you direct stormwater into the sewer system. 

 

Troubleshooting sewer issues at your property

A wastewater blockage, surcharge or overflow can occur when there's something inside a pipe that stops it working properly. The blockage is likely to be in your private pipes if:

  • your neighbours aren't experiencing a blockage
  • your drainage isn't shared with other properties
  • there is no flooding in your local area
  • you're only experiencing an overflow when using water on your property.

Learn how to troubleshoot these common issues, or who to contact for assistance.

Blockages

The main causes of sewer blockages are:

  • Flushable wipes and baby wipes – which really aren’t flushable
  • Fat and grease that solidifies in the pipes
  • Foreign objects like sanitary items and children’s toys
  • Tree roots that have broken into the pipes
  • Cracks or breaks in the pipes

If you can hear gurgling noises in your sink, or your basins are draining slowly, or there’s a bad smell coming from your sinks, or drains you might have a sewer block. You should check your vertical inspection shaft to see if it's blocked; this is usually near your property boundary.

If it's empty, the blockage is within your property boundary, and you’ll need to call a plumber. If the shaft is full or partly full, it’s likely there is a problem on our side of the network, so please call us directly on 6581 8111, or after hours on 6583 2225.

We don’t automatically honour a plumber’s bill for unblocking our sewer pipes if we haven’t authorised the work so if your plumber isn’t sure if the block is in our sewer pipes or yours, make sure you give us a call before they do any work. You can protect your home from a sewer blockage by:

  • Only flushing the 3P’s down the toilet – Poo, pee and (toilet) paper – everything else should be put in the bin
  • Putting food scraps, oil and cooking fats in the bin
  • Maintaining free access to any manholes, inspection shafts, overflow relief, gullies, and sewerage access points on your property
  • Not planting trees over the sewer pipes as the roots can get in as the trees grow. 

Surcharge or Overflow

A sewage overflow occurs at our Wastewater Treatment Plants when our storage limit exceeds capacity, either due to a major rain event. major equipment failure, or power outage. This results in partially treated or untreated sewage being released into the environment. Overflows are allowed under our Environment Protection Authority licences and are common across all Council areas, not just ours!

A sewage surcharge occurs when the sewerage system is overloaded. This results in untreated wastewater coming out of manholes and overflow relief gullies. A major cause of surcharges is stormwater entering the sewerage system. This occurs through:

  • Blockages in the pipes
  • Tree roots penetrating or breaking the pipes
  • Aging pipes and manholes (ours and yours)
  • Localised flooding
  • Illegal stormwater connections to the sewer system

Sewerage systems are designed to allow for some stormwater; but it's impractical to build infrastructure that can cope with an unlimited quantity and intensity of water. Our current systems are designed for our growing population, and we’re continuing to plan for our future.

If you see a sewer surcharge, please call us directly on 6581 8111 or after hours on 6583 2225.

Overflows and surcharges can have impacts on both public health and the environment. We report these events to a number of agencies including the NSW Environmental Protection Agency and NSW Health. We’re doing some Inflow and Infiltration testing to identify illegal stormwater connections and damaged infrastructure. This will help minimise the pressure on our sewerage system, reducing surcharges and the need to overflow. 

Odour

Sewer odours can come from a few different places – here are some things to consider when you’re reporting an odour issue:

  • If there’s a sewerage blockage within your property, you’ll need to call a plumber
  • Wetlands or mangrove areas can create similar smells at different times of the year
  • Blocked or inefficient drainage

We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to control sewage odours but if you’ve got a complaint about odour we want to hear it. Let us know the details by reporting a sewer issue.