Wastewater Trouble/Emergency Response


Backup | Overflow | Line Break | Odor Complaints | Manhole Issues | Cave-In | Grinder Pump Issues

Sanitary Sewer Emergencies: Call the 24-hour Trouble Response Center: 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.

Sanitary Sewer Backup

Contact our 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.

  • Always call the county prior to calling a plumber when you experience a sanitary sewer backup and you feel that the problem is in the county sewer main line.
  • If the backup occurs only when facilities (such as toilet, tub, washer or sinks) are used, it is possible that you need a plumber.
  • If you have sewage backing up when you are not using any of your facilities, it is possible that there is a problem in the county main line. A Wastewater Collection Division representative will be dispatched to check the county sanitary sewer line.
  • If the county line is operating normally, indications are that your private building sewer lateral is the cause of the sewer backup, and you will be advised to contact a plumber. In Fairfax County, maintaining a private lateral line is the property owner’s responsibility (see Chapter 65-6-1 of the County Code).
  • To minimize property damage, immediately close all drain openings with stoppers or plugs. Keep in mind that ceramic plumbing fixtures are fragile. Tub, sink and floor drains may need additional weight to keep them sealed. Do not run any water down your drains until the blockage has been cleared.

Check your insurance policy to determine if damages related to sewage backups or water damages are covered. This type of coverage may be an optional coverage and can generally be added to a policy if requested. The cost for this optional coverage is inexpensive, and it is advised that property owners with below grade fixtures investigate this coverage.

Learn how to prevent backups.

Sanitary Sewer Overflow

Report a sanitary sewer overflow – raw untreated sewage that discharges from the sanitary sewer system – to our 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498. Avoid contact with overflow discharges, and make sure that people are kept away from the area of overflow, especially children.

Overflows pose a substantial health risk as raw sewage can carry bacteria, viruses, molds and fungi. Sanitary sewer overflows can also cause poor water quality in lakes, rivers, streams, and pollute groundwater, and they can cause economic damage by hurting water-dependent businesses such as fishing and tourism.

Typical signs of an overflow include:

  • Water flowing from manholes
  • Toilet paper or other “flushables” visible on the ground
  • Sewer odor
  • Displaced manhole covers

Learn how to prevent and reduce overflows.

Sanitary Sewer Line Break

Contact 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498, immediately.

Sanitary Sewer Odor Complaints

  • If you have a sewer odor in your home, first look for the source in the bathrooms, kitchen or basement. Pour a gallon of water down the drains and sinks that are not used often. You can also pour a household disinfectant in all drains. If this does not solve the problem, contact the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.
  • If you detect an odor outside your home, contact the 24-hour Trouble Response Center immediately.
  • If you have an odor complaint and you are located in the vicinity of the Noman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant in Lorton, Va., please call 703-550-9740, extension 278, TTY 703-239-8498, between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m., please call the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.

To prevent odors:

  • Keep water in all plumbing traps. Water should be added regularly to plumbing fixtures, especially any seldom used sinks, toilets or floor drains that may have dried out.  Sewer gas and odors could enter your home or business if any plumbing fixtures have not been used in a while and the water in the water-sealed traps has evaporated.
  • Keep vents open. If all the traps are full of water and there is still an odor, the problem could be in the vent that carries sewer gas out of the house through the roof. Vents that have become plugged by leaves or bird’s nests can cause sewer gas to back up into the home or business.

Manhole Issues

  • Missing Manhole Cover: Immediately contact the Wastewater Collection Division 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.  A missing manhole cover may create a safety problem.  

  • Noisy Manhole or Noisy Manhole Cover: Contact the Wastewater Collection Division 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.

  • Vandalism: This usually involves an unauthorized person removing a manhole cover and dropping objects into the manhole and obstructing the sewage flow, which can result in a backup into a building or sanitary sewer overflow. If you notice tampering with a manhole cover, please contact the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498, immediately.

Cave-in

A cave-in is a depression in the roadway which may be above a county sanitary sewer line. Report cave-ins to the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498.

Grinder Pump Issues

Contact 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 703-239-8498, if you experience a problem with a grinder pump.

Low pressure sewer systems use grinder pumps to grind the sewage from your home (much like a garbage disposal in your kitchen) and pump the sewage through small pipes to the Wastewater Collection System. Low pressure systems are sometimes used in areas which cannot be served by gravity pipes.

The grinder pump can handle any wastewater that is normally discharged to the sewer from the kitchen, bathroom or laundry. Some chemicals and materials may cause operating problems or safety hazards.

Never put any of the following materials into sinks, toilets or drains:

  • Glass, metal, wood, seafood shells, diapers, socks, rags or cloth of any kind
  • Plastic objects (toys, eating utensils, etc.)
  • Any strong chemicals, toxic, caustic or poisonous substances
  • Gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil or grease
  • Antifreeze, lubricating oil or grease
  • Cooking grease
  • Degreasing solvents

These materials can damage the grinder pump, cause blockages or may create hazardous conditions in your home.


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