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Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs)

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Overflowing ManholeA Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) is the release of untreated sewer into the environment. An SSO occurs when wastewater transported in underground pipes overflows from a manhole, broken pipes and or service lateral clean outs.  An SSO can potentially cause damage to private property or business, cause health hazards, threaten the environment, local waterways and beaches.
How do I identify an SSO?

SSO’s are normally sewage discharges from a manhole cover in the street, backyards, or other areas where manholes are located.  They can appear as slow water leak that may take time to be noticed, or a heavy discharge. Don’t dismiss wet areas that cannot be accounted for. Be aware of:

  • Drains backing up inside the building
  • Wet ground and water leaking around manhole lids on streets
  • Seeping sewage (water) from service lateral clean outs
  • Unusual odorous wet areas

What about SSO's on private property?

Via%20Maggiore%20614The majority of the properties within the City are connected to the public sewer system by means of a service lateral. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance (See Sewer Lateral Policy).  Should a backup in the service lateral or SSO occur from the service lateral clean out, the property owner or tenant must take immediate steps to clear the obstruction and to stop the discharge of sewer from their property.  One way to stop the discharge if the service lateral is blocked from your house/business is to STOP ALL water usage.  For example, do not run water in sinks, flush toilets, and take showers or wash clothes.

If your private SSO discharge reaches a public right away, street or storm drain, immediately call the City of Chula Vista Public Works Operations at (619) 397-6000. If the discharge to the City's right of way occurs after normal working hours, holidays or weekends, call the Chula Vista Police at (619) 691-5151 and report you have a sewer emergency.  Allowing sewage to discharge into a gutter, storm drain or onto public property is a violation of State Health, Safety, Water Codes and the Clean Water Act. 

What about SSO’s in the public right of way or street?

Report immediately by calling (619) 397-6000 during regular business hours, as listed below:

John Lippitt Public Works Center
1800 Maxwell Road
Chula Vista, CA 91911

Monday - Thursday | 6:30am - 4pm
Fridays | 6:30am - 3:00pm
* Closed every other Friday

The City is committed to protecting our citizens by maintaining a safe and healthy environment and maintaining an efficient and effective wastewater collection system.

What are the most common causes of sewage spills?

  • GREASE: is the most common cause of pipe blockages. Grease enters the sewer system from household drains and poorly maintained commercial grease traps and interceptors. Grease and oils discharged into the sewer system attach to the walls of pipes and solidifies.  With each discharge another layer forms until eventually the flow of water in the pipe is restricted and begins to back up causing an SSO.
  • ROOTS: can have a major impact on sewer lines. If your sewer lateral is restricted due to tree roots, you need to consider regularly scheduled maintenance from a licensed plumber to keep the lateral clear free of roots.
  • STRUCTURE: problems caused by roots in the sewer lines. Roots enter the sewer line through cracked or broken pipes seeking moisture. Once established, roots continue to grow and expand in the sewer line eventually causing a blockage or damaged service lateral.
  • INFILTRATION INFLOW: of groundwater and rainwater into the sanitary sewer system. Infiltration is a result of pipe defects or illegal connections of yard and or roof drains connected to the sewer system. Infiltration surcharges can the sewer line exceeding its capacity causing SSOs.
  • MAINTENANCE: on private service laterals. When preventative and or corrective maintenance is performed on your private service lateral, debris such as cut root balls or grease are pushed from the service lateral into the public sewer. Once in the public sewer this material tends to obstruct the flow of sewage eventually causing a blockage that can result in an SSO.

We need your help to prevent an SSO.

2012eResidents: By following the tips listed below you are well on your way toward maintaining a healthy service lateral and preventing costly maintenance and clean up activities resulting from SSO’s:

  • Avoid pouring fats, oils and grease and food scraps down the kitchen sink.  Pour spent household cooking oil, grease and lard into containers and dispose with solid waste (garbage).  Never put grease down garbage disposals, drains, or toilets. Large amounts of cooking oil may be recycled.
  • Catch food scraps with baskets or strainer in sink drains.  Throw scrapes in the garbage.
  • Wipe excess oil and grease from cooking pans with paper towel and dispose with solid waste (garbage).  Proper disposal prevents grease buildups from blocking service lateral.
  • Dispose of pharmaceuticals properly.  NO DRUGS DOWN THE DRAIN.
  • Despite a products claim of being able to flush down the toilet, the fact is baby and adult wipes, feminine hygiene products, cat liter, disposable diapers or other biodegradable and non- biodegradable products should NEVER be flushed down the toilet.  These types of materials are costly to remove and treat at wastewater plants, and can collectively contribute to SSO’s
  • Perform periodic maintenance by cleaning your service lateral to eliminate grease buildup, debris and roots. A rule of thumb is to have your service lateral maintained annually.
  • Repair structural problems on your service lateral.
  • Disconnect illegal connections to your service lateral including yard and roof drains to prevent irrigation and storm water runoff from entering the collection system.
  • Be selective with landscape planting materials that do not have aggressive root systems that may migrate to your service connection looking for moisture and nourishment.
Restaurants and Commercial Establishments: Restaurants and Commercial establishments have grease and oil traps or interceptors to keep grease and oils out of sewer pipes.  To work correctly this equipment must be:
  • Size and design correctly to handle the expected amount of grease.
  • Installed properly per codes.
  • Recycle grease and oil.
  • Dry wipe pots, pans and dishware prior to washing.
  • Don’t put grease or oil into sinks, floor drains, or onto a parking lot or street drains.
  • Never put solids into great traps or interceptors.
  • Check and maintain grease traps and interceptors regularly.
  • Provide regular training to employees on proper disposal of fats, greases and oils.
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