SEWER OVERFLOWS. Information on plumbing blockages and wet weather overflows

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1 SEWER OVERFLOWS Information on plumbing blockages and wet weather overflows This guide has been designed to assist people who have experienced a sewer overflow.

2 Queensland Urban Utilities provides water and sewerage services to more than 1.4 million residents across Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset. Our network includes more than 9,000 kilometres of sewer pipes to service residential and commercial customers. As with all large networks around the world, sometimes there are blockages and overflows. We recognise the impact these issues have and are committed to supporting prevention measures and responding as quickly as possible to minimise impacts. Sewerage or drainage issues usually fall into one of the following categories: Dry weather overflows or blockages Slow draining sinks, toilets or showers, or a sewage overflow that occurs in dry weather could be a sign of a blockage in your pipes or ours. See pages 4-5 to find out about investigating a blockage on or near your property. Wet weather overflows Wet weather overflows can occur when rainwater overwhelms the stormwater network and spills over into the sewer system. They can also occur as a result of improper stormwater tosewer connections. These incidents tend to happen during significant rainfall events, with properties in low lying and flood affected areas most at risk. See pages 9-11 for steps you can take to help manage and prevent wet weather overflows. 2

3 Who is responsible for what? Responsibility of the property owner Property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the private water and sewer pipes on their properties up to the connection point. This includes the cost of any repairs to, or damage caused by the pipes on your property. The water connection point is at the water meter. The sewer connection point varies between regions, please contact Queensland Urban Utilities for more advice. Responsibility of Queensland Urban Utilities Queensland Urban Utilities maintains and operates the water and sewerage services from the network up to your property connection point. OVERFLOW RELIEF GULLY WATER PIPE STORMWATER PIPE * Customers Responsibility SEWER PIPE PROPERTY CONNECTION POINTS *Your council is responsible for the stormwater network that extends beyond your property boundary line. Queensland Urban Utilities Responsibility 3

4 What if there is a blockage in my sewer pipe? The first step is to identify if the blockage is your responsibility as the property owner or our responsibility. Please refer to page 3 for more information on responsibility. Tenants are advised to keep their landlords informed in all circumstances. Please read the checklist below and follow the steps. The blockage may be your responsibility if any of the following apply: Your neighbours are not experiencing the blockage. Your drainage is not shared with other properties. There is no flooding in your local area. To clear the blockage you could either: request that we clear the blockage for you. Go to to complete a blockage removal request or call us on (24/7). Please note, fees apply and we only offer this service in Brisbane and Ipswich. See page 8 for further details; or call a licensed plumber to remove the blockage for you. For a referral to a licensed plumber, phone the Master Plumbers Association of Queensland on from 8am 5pm weekdays. 4

5 The blockage may be our responsibility if we have sewers in your area and any of these apply: The problem is visible outside your property boundary. Your neighbours are experiencing the same problem. There is widespread flooding in your local street. If your property has been flooded by our sewer, or if the blockage is in our pipes: Please call us on (24/7). We will send a crew to clean up and clear the blockage or investigate an overflow. We do not charge for clearing a blockage that occurs in our sewerage network. What if the issue is in Queensland Urban Utilities network? If your plumber has inspected your sewer pipe and identified the issue is in our infrastructure, please call us on (24/7). Alternatively, your plumber may choose to call us directly and request we attend and inspect the site. If the issue is in the sewer network outside of your property line, then our crew will investigate and resolve the problem. 5

6 What happens if I need an urgent clean up at my property? If you see waste water flowing or bubbling out of a sewer maintenance hole on or near your property, please report it by calling (24/7). Interior clean up If the inside of your home has been impacted by a sewage overflow, please lodge a claim with your insurer. Your insurer will organise the urgent clean up and restoration of your property and will liaise with us about your insurance claim. Exterior clean up If the incident is caused by a problem with our network, we will assist with the clean up of the area around your home. We follow a clean up procedure established under guidance from Queensland Health. This includes removing any solid material, and rinsing and disinfecting the affected area to kill off bacteria and smell associated with sewage. As an additional precaution, we advise people to stay away from impacted areas for 48 hours to allow sunshine to kill off any remaining bacteria. We will also conduct an evaluation of our pipes to determine the cause of the incident and steps required to minimise future issues. 6

7 Can I be compensated for plumbing fees? If the blockage occurred in a part of the sewerage network you re responsible for, you ll need to pay the plumbing costs. If the blockage occurred on our side of the network, we may provide assistance. If you engage a plumber, you will need to pay the plumbing fees, including any blockage investigation fees regardless of whether the failure is in your pipes or our part of the network. If the blockage is in our network, you can lodge a claim with us for consideration. Your request will be subject to a liability review and we ll let you know the outcome once the investigation has been finalised. Please contact us as soon as possible on (7am 7pm weekdays) for assistance and provide: Your name and contact details Details of the incident Address of the incident/blockage Compensation sought Plumber s report Copy of the paid plumber s invoice or account (if available). 7

8 If the blockage is in my pipes, can I pay Queensland Urban Utilities to fix it? If you live in Brisbane or Ipswich you can lodge a blockage removal request with us for a fee (see table below). Go to to complete a blockage removal request or call us on (24/7). Please note: this service is only available for Brisbane and Ipswich residents. If you live in Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Scenic Rim regions, we encourage you to contact a licensed plumber for assistance. Our blockage removal fees* for Brisbane and Ipswich Hours Monday to Friday (excl. Public holidays) 7am -4pm All other times Payment by account $234 including GST $624 including GST Fee details Includes call out fee and one hour of work on site. $32 including GST will be charged for each additional 15 minutes over the first hour. Includes call out fee and one hour of work on site. $82 including GST will be charged for each additional 15 minutes over the first hour. *Fees accurate at time of publishing. Subject to change. 8

9 What causes blockages and overflows? Sewer pipes are only designed to remove sewage. Causes of blockages and overflows include, but are not limited to: Fats or food scraps being washed down the sink Wet wipes and other hygiene or sanitary products being flushed down the toilet Tree roots entering and growing inside pipes, causing them to crack Stormwater entering and overloading the sewerage network. How you can help reduce blockages and overflows Maintain your pipes Putting the wrong things down sinks, pipes and toilets can lead to blockages and expensive plumbing bills. It can also lead to overflows in your pipes and problems in other parts of the sewerage network. Slow draining sinks, toilets or showers could be a sign of a blockage. Overflows may also occur due to improper stormwater connections from downpipes or water tanks which drain into sewer pipes on your property. It s best to investigate potential problems before they lead to an overflow. A licensed plumber can help identify the issue and provide a recommendation. 9

10 Check your overflow relief gully An overflow relief gully (ORG) is a drain like fitting in the ground outside the home, usually near the laundry. If there s a blockage in your plumbing or excess rainwater in the sewerage network, ORGs are designed to overflow sewage on the ground outside your house. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their overflow relief gully. Please follow these tips: Make sure stormwater in your yard drains away and does not build up and flood your ORG. Make sure your ORG sits at least 75mm above ground level to avoid collecting stormwater during heavy rain. It should also sit at least 150mm lower than the lowest internal household drain to prevent overflows inside the house. Check your ORG is clear and not covered by landscaping, garden beds, pot plants or other items. Ensure the surrounding area slopes away from the building to direct potential overflows away from your home. Regularly check that the metal or plastic grill covering the ORG is loosely fitted and can pop off to allow an overflow to occur, rather than overflowing inside the house. 10

11 What we are doing to reduce wet weather overflows Wet weather overflows can occur when rainwater overwhelms the stormwater network and spills over into the sewer system. We have a range of programs to help reduce wet weather overflows by: Prioritising network upgrades in low lying areas where wet weather overflows occur most often. Providing ongoing maintenance, including CCTV inspections and regular cleaning, to identify cracks and clear blocked sewer pipes. Utilising innovative technology and remote controlled robots to access and inspect the sewer system. Conducting smoke testing to find where stormwater is entering the sewerage system and contributing to overflows. Offering overflow management subsidies* for the installation of reflux valves and ORG caps. *Eligibility criteria applies. Reflux valves can help prevent an overflow from occuring by blocking access from the sewerage network to a property s private drainage. ORG caps are also available to customers with low-lying ORGs to raise the height and prevent stormwater inflows. To be eligible for an overflow management subsidy, we require a recommendation from a licensed plumber for the installation of a reflux valve. The overflow should be a recurring issue and not the result of a blockage. To request an ORG cap or for further information about the reflux valve subsidy, please call (7am-7pm weekdays). Visit our website for more information and advice about wet weather overflows. 11

12 Can t find your ORG? If you can t locate your overflow relief gully, we recommend contacting a licensed plumber to investigate. It may have been concreted over or covered by landscaping and this could lead to plumbing issues in the future. Stormwater should not rise above or flow into your ORG as this may flood the sewerage network and lead to overflows. Stormwater run-off from water tanks or downpipes should not be directed to your ORG or connected to the sewerage network. Queensland Urban Utilities is committed to providing accessible services to people of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds. If you have difficulty understanding this brochure and require an interpreter, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on and ask them to telephone Queensland Urban Utilities on (from 7am-7pm weekdays). General Enquiries (7am-7pm weekdays) Faults and Emergencies (24/7) ABN Q Queensland Urban Utilities 2016

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