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  1. 10/8/2010 DOES YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COVER SEWER BACKUPS
  2. On numerous occasions, District maintenance staff have responded to sewer backup reports received from distressed homeowners who have lost valuable property stored on a basement floor near a floor drain. If a sewer service pipe or sewer main becomes clogged, wastewater drained from the house backs up in the pipe and usually surfaces through basement floor drains. If not detected and corrected immediately the backup can spread and contact items which have been boxed and stored in a seemingly remote area of the basement.

    The majority of sewer backups occur in customer owned service lines and not the District’s sewer main.

    One of the most common causes of service line backups are tree roots which grew into the service line through pipe joints and cracks. Many customers do not realize the ability of tree roots to infiltrate and eventually clog sewer service pipes. Trees are frequently planted without considering to the location of underground pipes and are therefore planted directly over or adjacent to the sewer pipe. Roots from some fast growing trees can infiltrate the pipe joints in a matter of a few years. Once the hairlike roots enter the sewer pipe, they grow exceedingly fast and can completely clog the pipe in a matter of months.

    Other causes for sewer service line backups is grease buildup and foreign objects which have gotten caught within the pipe (i.e. toys and diapers).

    On rare occasions District owned sewer mains will become clogged and cause backups. Blockages in the sewer mains are caused by tree roots entering the mains through individual service line connections, grease buildup from commercial and residential properties, structural deficiencies, and vandalism. To prevent sewer main backups from occurring the District inspects each main with television cameras every 4 years, more often if in a known trouble area, and cleans out any blockages when they are observed.

    So, how do homeowners protect themselves against sewer backups? First, District staff recommends that sewer service pipes be roto-rooted occasionally, customers should refrain from putting cooking grease, paper towels, diapers and other refuse in toilets or sinks, and personal property should not be stored on the floor near floor drains. Secondly, in order to avoid the distress caused by a loss of irreplaceable personal property, District staff suggests that customers check their homeowners insurance policy to see if sewer backup coverage is provided. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article only about 20% of homeowner policies have coverage for sewer backups. If it is not clear that your policy includes such coverage, contact your insurance agent. If your policy excludes coverage, request a rider to the policy to protect against backups. Many insurance companies offer such coverage but do not make it available unless specifically requested. Finally, homeowners should also not assume that the District is responsible for damages, even if a backup occurs as a result of a stoppage in the District’s sewer main. Sewer service providers are normally not found to be responsible for sewer backups caused by vandalism, roots entering the sewer main from customer service lines, and other problems not caused by the service provider if the utility has a comprehensive maintenance program. As outlined above, Platte Canyon has a very extensive maintenance program consisting of pipeline video inspections, hydraulic cleaning and root cutting.

    If you experience a sewer backup, please contact the District office immediately at (303) 979-2333 for assistance. There is no charge for the District to respond to these calls.