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5 Interesting Sewer Facts for Homeowners

You flush the toilet or let water run down the drain, and it is instantly drained away by your home's mysterious sewer system.

If you have never had a major sewage backup, you may not know a lot about the network of pipes leading from your drains all of the way to the public sewer system. But knowledge is power, and the more you know about sewers and your home's sewer pipes, the better prepared you'll be to deal with any future sewer struggles.

Start building your knowledge arsenal with these five interesting sewer facts for homeowners.

1. Sewers Date Back to Ancient Rome

Sewers are often thought of as a modern innovation, but in fact, they have a long history. One of the first-known sewers was built around the year 600 BC in Rome. It was known as the Cloaca Maxima.

London began building drainage systems around 1200 AD, and the city of Boston, MA had a primitive drainage system in the early 1700s. However, the first full public sewer systems in the U.S. were built in Chicago and New York City in the 1850s.

2. Sewer Systems Treat Waste for Public Safety

One of the primary differences between today's public sewer systems and the public sewers prior to the 1800s is how the systems handle waste. Early systems would often empty untreated waste into a nearby body of water. Today, however, sewer departments use advanced measures to treat and sanitize the waste, protecting the public from bacterial and viral diseases.

The sewage treatment process begins when solids are removed from the mixture. These solids are moved to specialized tanks where they are broken down by bacteria and later used to make fertilizer or fuel. The liquids are treated with hydrogen peroxide, reverse osmosis systems, and UV light to remove contaminants. Then, the clean water is returned to the public water supply.

3. Lateral Pipes Are the Dividing Line Between Public and Private Ownership

Each home has its own sewer pipes that collect waste and feed that waste into public sewer pipes. But at what point does public ownership and private ownership begin?

In most municipalities, the lateral sewer pipe is the dividing line. This line, also known as the main sewer line, runs perpendicular to the street, emptying all of your home's waste into the larger sewer line that runs parallel to the street. Any problems with the lateral sewer line are your responsibility as a homeowner. Problems with the street-level sewer line and beyond are a public issue.

4. Lateral Sewer Lines Require Maintenance

Problems with your lateral sewer line can be costly to repair, and if this line becomes clogged, every drain in your home may slow down or back up. Here are a few ways you can minimize trouble with your main sewer line:
  • Do not plant trees near the line. Their roots may grow into the line, causing clogs.
  • Never flush anything other than toilet paper and human waste. Wet wipes, tampons, and cotton balls all contribute to clogs.
  • Do not park vehicles or equipment over the sewer line. You may crush or bend the pipe.
Your sewer company can inspect the main line with a camera and let you know if you have any root growth or growing clogs to worry about.

5. Fatbergs Are a Growing Concern in Public Sewers

Tree roots are the major concern in your home's main sewer line, but in the public components of the sewer system, you have to consider another big threat: fatbergs. As the name suggests, fatbergs are huge formations of congealed fat. They clog sewers and are tough for workers to remove. Cities like Baltimore, London, and Denver have all had trouble with fatbergs in recent years.

Luckily, you can do your part to prevent fatbergs by never putting grease down the drain. Do not put fat or greasy items down your garbage disposal, either.

Do you feel a bit more informed about your home's sewer lines and the public sewers to which they connect? If you have any additional concerns or questions, contact JT Sanitation. We can diagnose and repair or replace sewer lines.