Check your gutters to help prevent sewer overflows this winter

07 Jul 2023 in Where We Govern

Residents have the power to help reduce sewer overflows in their neighbourhoods by ensuring every household’s rainwater gutters are directed to the correct drain being a stormwater drain, not a sewer drain. Read more below:

What to know about your rainwater runoff and sewer overflows:

  • Only rainwater (otherwise known as stormwater) should run into stormwater drains.
  • Stormwater that enters the sewer system will contribute to overflowing sewers.
  • Sewer drains are a crucial part of the Water and Sanitation Directorate’s infrastructure that helps to control the flow of wastewater through the sewer pipes.
  • Sewer drains should not be used to direct stormwater into it and not to dump food, dirt, rubble or for anything other than wastewater.

As per the City’s Wastewater and Industrial Effluent By-law, no person may allow the discharge of rainwater into a sewer drain, otherwise known as a cross-connection. There are many cross-connections on private properties, where water flows from residents’ roofs, gutters and paved or hard yard surface areas into sewer drains. This causes sewers to flood when it rains, causing overflows further down the network.

Stormwater entering the sewer network, also known as stormwater ingress, causes serious problems and must be prevented. Our sewer pipelines are designed only for sewage, and excess water causes overflows of sewage water into the streets, especially at times of heavy rainfall.

When sewage is spilled into the street or enters the stormwater system, it ends up in the rivers and wetlands and pollutes our natural waters.

‘Generally, the combined impact of rain that enters the sewer pipes via open drains (where covers are stolen or broken) or illegal stormwater-to-sewer connections, plus illegal dumping into the pipes which causes blockages, all contribute to sewer overflows. This is because waste that gets into the system, via flushing or pouring down drains and sinks, already reduces the capacity of the sewer pipes to convey wastewater and damages infrastructure like pump stations, resulting in overflows and flooding.

‘Residents are reminded the City experiences an influx of complaints due to heavy rainfall especially where rain is entering the sewer network and in some cases, overflowing storm water systems. It is important to report missing or stolen manhole drain covers because they help prevent sewer overflows into the street. Also please check that your gutter is directed to a stormwater drain, not a sewer drain.

‘Should you discover you have an illegal stormwater to sewer connection, contact a registered plumber, a reliable builder or handyman to assist with rectifying the illegal connections or making a legal diversion that will ensure the properties’ stormwater connections are compliant.

‘The City’s Water and Sanitation teams generally clear sewer blockages and clean affected areas, while also doing all they can to reduce the impact of load-shedding on pump stations, which services areas.

‘Residents are also urged to please report blocked sewers and overflows as soon as possible using the City’s official channels to ensure the City is aware of the complaint in the area. This is so it can be attended to as soon as it is possible to do so,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

Alternatives for your stormwater

If you don’t want excess rainwater on your property, you can:

  • Discharge rainwater over unmade ground/garden area to recharge the groundwater.
  • Make a channel or pipe for it to run into the street and down into the stormwater system. Only rainwater is allowed in the stormwater drains, not your used grey water or wastewater.
  • Collect it for the garden.

Please report water and sanitation-related service requests, such as sewer overflows or blockages, to one of the following channels:

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