Sanitary Sewer Maintenance

Sanitary Sewer Maintenance - What Can Homeowners Do To Help?

The sanitary sewer system begins with the plumbing fixtures inside the house. All of the drains from sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets are piped to the sewer service that exits the house and connects to the sewer main under the street. Each drain has a 'trap' and a vent pipe that help prevent sewer gases and odors from entering the house.

Some basic trouble-shooting might help you when a drain backs up. If only one section of plumbing or fixture doesn't drain, it is usually a problem within the house. However, if no drains work, or the entire system drains slowly, or worst case scenario - waste water comes back up through the basement floor drain, the problem is most likely outside of the house in the sewer service or the sewer main.

You can reduce potential problems by following some simple rules:

  • If you smell sewage but have no obvious problems, add a gallon of water to your floor drains and plumbing fixtures to insure your traps have water;
  • Never flush disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, applicators, wet-wipes, rags or other objects that might block or settle in your pipes;
  • Do not dump gas, grease, oil, antifreeze, paint or other foreign objects down drains;
  • If using a garbage disposal, minimize the amount of food and never dispose of cooking oils, grease or coffee grounds;
  • Take immediate action is you suspect your sewer line is partially plugged


If you suspect a sewer obstruction or backup and do not know where the blockage is, contact the City of South St. Paul Utilities Division BEFORE contacting a drain cleaning company. The City will inspect the sewer main through a manhole to determine if there is a blockage in the sewer main line. If it is determined the main line is free, then the blockage is likely in the property's sewer service pipe (the pipe between the house and the main sewer line). Often times root invasion from mature trees is the cause of an obstruction.

Call Public Works at 651-554-3225, Monday - Friday between 7:00 AM and 3:30 PM. After hours and weekends or holidays, call 911. City crews will be dispatched to assess the situation.

If it is determined that no blockage or restrictions exist in the City's sanitary sewer system, the property owner is advised to contact a professional plumber or drain cleaning service to have the private sewer service inspected. The City cannot make a recommendation for drain cleaning services. A property owner may wish to obtain estimates. We do request that you notify us after a sewer service has been cleaned. Typically, the cleaning process pushes a significant amount of solids into the sewer main, which could cause a new blockage in the main sanitary sewer line.