Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a sewer backwater valve and who is required to have them?

Most properties have been built so that an obstruction in the public sewer will not cause a sewage backup into the property. If a sewage backup problem occurs, it is usually due to roots or debris in the owner’s drain line (the pipe which connects the property to the public sewer).

Some properties, however, require the extra protection of a backwater valve in the owner’s drain line. These properties have been built (see picture) so that the drain of the lowest plumbing fixture (bath tub, shower, etc.) is lower than the upper manhole of the public sewer. The backwater valve is designed to automatically shut to prevent leakage out of the plumbing fixture if sewage from an obstructed public sewer backs up the owner’s drain line.

If your property appears to require a backwater valve, but you do not know if one has been installed, we strongly encourage you to consider installing one. You can obtain the necessary permit at your local Building and Safety Office. Their staff can also provide Plumbing Code information regarding backwater valves.

If you have a backwater valve, or decide to install one, please note that it must be checked to ensure that it is operating properly at all times. Root cleaning machines, debris in the drain line or other problems can easily damage or interfere with backwater valves.