Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. Trouble Response line available 24-Hours everyday

703-250-2700
TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 358, Fairfax, Va 22035

Stacey Smalls,
Director, Wastewater Collection

Preventing Backups and Overflows

Sewers are designed to dispose of very specific things. Using a toilet or kitchen drain for disposal of non-biodegradable products will often result in home or county sanitary sewer system blockages. The drain lines that connect your home to the county sanitary sewer in the street are only big enough to carry water, toilet paper and human waste. Never flush anything down the toilet other than human waste and toilet paper.

Prevent Backups:

Do Not Flush:

  • Fats, Oils or Grease (For more information see Preventing Sewage Backups)
  • Medicines or other pharmaceuticals, including liquids (Visit Health Department, Safe Disposal of Medicines.)
  • Baby wipes or disinfectant wipes
  • Rags, cloth or clothing  
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons, condoms or any non-organic material
  • Q-tips®
  • Napkins or paper towels
  • Contact lenses
  • Plastic of any kind
  • Food items of any kind
  • Hair
  • Diapers (cloth, disposable or “flushable”)
  • Facial tissues
  • Dental floss

Try to limit or eliminate your garbage disposal use. Consider composting your food waste items.

What Can Be Flushed?

  • Only toilet paper and human waste

What Can Be Poured Down a Drain?

  • Household ammonia-based cleaners, drain cleaners and most bathroom cleaners can be poured down the drain inside your home. NEVER pour products down storm drains.

How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste:

Roots

Shrubs and tree roots, seeking moisture, will make their way into open sewer joints and sewer line cracks. Over time, roots cause your sewer line to break, which allows debris to accumulate and cause a backup. One way to prevent roots from entering your line is to replace your line and tap with new plastic pipe. The other alternative is to be careful about planting trees and greenery around your sewer pipe. If you have continuing problems with tree roots in your lateral, you may have to have them cut periodically by a plumber. If you have a plumber clean roots out of your sewer lateral, please call the 24-hour Trouble Response Center so that we can also clean out the county sewer main line.

Illegal Plumbing Connections

Do not connect sump pumps, downspouts, French drains and other flood control systems to your sanitary sewer; it is illegal, and debris and silt can clog your private sewer lateral. Consult a plumber to correct any illegal connections.

Install a Backwater Prevention Valve

A backwater valve is a fixture installed into a private sewer line to prevent sewer backflows. A properly installed and maintained backwater valve allows sewage to leave the building but not to come back in. Property owners are responsible for the installation and maintenance of backwater valves. Check with a qualified plumber.

Prevent Overflows

  • Do not connect sump pumps, downspouts, French drains and other flood control systems to your sanitary sewer as it is illegal. The water can overload the sewer system causing it to overflow raw sewage into streams, streets or basements.
  • Check your sewer cleanout. Make sure the cap is on and has not been damaged. Replace missing caps.
  • Avoid pouring grease down your sink. As the grease cools off, it will solidify either in the drain, the property owner’s lateral or the county sewer causing the line to clog. Collect kitchen grease in a container and dispose of it in the garbage.
  • Avoid planting trees and shrubs above or near sanitary sewer lines. Roots can enter and clog sewers, causing them to back up and overflow.