SFPUC Encourages Residents to Protect Their Sewer Pipes

Normally, you would hear the SFPUC say “Only the 3 Ps down the pipes: toilet Paper, Poop and Pee.” While that message will last the test of time, sewer pipes are something that won’t, unless you take care of them. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission really needs you – especially the property owners – to Protect Your Sewer Pipes.

Most of us don’t think about what happens after we flush. Staff at the SFPUC can attest to the complex nature of wastewater treatment. Teams of skilled professionals ensure that San Francisco’s sewer system protects public health and the environment by inspecting, cleaning, repairing and replacing sewer pipes and storm drains. Sewer pipes from buildings and homes (also called “sewer laterals”) are truly where the system begins; they connect to the larger network of the City’s sewer system.

“It’s a partnership between property owners and tenants alike, we all have to do our part to protect the sewer network around us. We have an aging system, and while we work to keep it up and running, everyone has a part in protecting the sewer that we all share,” said Michael Tran, Engineer and Program Lead.

This is a cross section of the underground network of pipes connecting most homes and businesses to the wider sewer network.

The SFPUC is mailing informational notices to properties throughout the City to raise awareness about these sewer laterals. The agency plans to use SFPUC-led sewer replacement projects as an opportunity to educate property owners in all neighborhoods throughout the City.

By keeping sewer laterals in good condition, property owners can help reduce the risk of sewer backups. For example, dumping grease down the drain or flushing wipes down the toilets can clog the sewer pipes, result in back-ups or overflows onto properties or streets, foul odors, and costly damage to private and public sewer infrastructure.

The SFPUC is offering more educational information for property owners on the lateral vents and traps, and backwater valves (designed to automatically shut when water flows towards the property and to reduce the likelihood of sewage backup – especially important during heavy rains), all of which are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain. Detailed information can be found at sfwater.org/sewerbackwatervalve. Property owners who experience sewage backup during rains, may be eligible for the agency’s Floodwater Grant Program for a reimbursement to install the device. 

Let’s do our part in being a more prepared and resilient San Francisco where our communities work, play and live.