Sewer Service Issues

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​​​Sewer Backups and Overflows

High on the list of experiences nobody wants to have is a sewer backup or overflow. Fortunately, that "yucky" experience usually can be avoided by being aware of what causes backups and avoiding those causes. The two primary causes of sewer backups and overflows are grease and roots.

Grease is the most frequent cause of sewer problems. If cooking grease or oil is poured down the drain or flushed down toilets, even when followed by hot water, it eventually cools down, congeals, builds up, and hardens, eventually forming a plug in both the home and the city sewer lines. Over time this situation will create backups and overflows. This unfortunate situation can be avoided if you allow the grease or cooking oil to cool, then dispose of it with the garbage. When the Water Services Department has to contend with sewer backups and overflows in the city sewer lines, there are consequences of both a financial and regulatory nature. So please, Cease the Grease, and help the city keep its sewers free from backups and overflows.

Plant roots are another frequent cause of sewer backups and overflows. The roots of shrubs and trees naturally seek any water source. The roots probe the sewer line seeking any opening, such as a crack or a poorly sealed joint. Once the sewer line is penetrated, the roots form a ball and block the line. The best way to avoid root blockages is not to plant trees and shrubs close to your home's clean outs or sewer service line. However, if trees or shrubs already are growing near the line, watch for reductions in flows down the drain. If a reduction in flow occurs, have a plumber check the line and clear the blockage if necessary.

It is important to note that home or property owners are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the sewer line that runs from the house to the connection with the city sewer main in the street or alley. The city, under City Code Section 28-5, will ONLY repair broken service lines within the public right of way. Please help us keep our sewer lines free of roots.

If you witness sewage overflowing from manholes, please call 602-262-6691, between 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and after 2:30 p.m., and on weekends or holidays, call  602-261-8000.


The City of Phoenix Water Services Department has about 38,000 manholes painted annually with a latex based insecticide. The paint is guaranteed to control cockroaches for two years. 

By drastically reducing the cockroach population in the sanitary sewer/wastewater collection system, the City's cockroach control program has had an impact on preventing cockroach infestation on private property as well.

However, the city is ONLY responsible for public sewers. Many people think that because the city treats sewers for cockroaches, that the sewers are the only source of cockroach infestation. The cockroach issue generally starts in dark places, like storage sheds and heavily shaded gardens, and then the cockroaches migrate to the home and hide in the drains of sinks. It is up to individuals to treat their own homes, meter boxes, storage sheds, mail boxes, dog houses and other areas cockroaches like to hide. Here are some ways to keep your home free of cockroaches:

  • Don't leave food uncovered, including pet food.
  • ​Pick up clutter. Piled up newspapers and boxes give cockroaches a good place to hide.
  • Pour a little bleach down drains in your kitchen, bathroom, and shower. Cockroaches don't like the smell.
  •  Keep drains covered when not in use. Cockroaches love to hide there.
  • Keep windows and doors closed or tightly screened to keep out all insects, including cockroaches.
  • Check boxes for cockroaches before bringing them into your home.
  • Seal cracks and crevices in the walls and floor to keep out all insects.
  • Use boric acid, the antiseptic powder used in eye washes, to control roaches. A pet-friendly alternative is diatomaceous earth, a fine, white powder. Both boric acid and diatomaceous earth dries out and kills cockroaches.

Learn more methods for dealing with a cockroach problem by visiting these external websites: