Faced with a sewer line emergency? Here’s what you need to know.

Gurgling toilets, slow-to-drain drains, spot mold, mildew or a distinct sewer odor could indicate a broken sewer line in your home. Here’s what you should know about damaged or broken sewer lines — and what to do in an emergency.

Do you have a sewer line problem? 

The main sewer line is the plumbing line that carries all of the waste from toilets, tubs and sinks out of your home. Sewer line problems in older homes are commonly caused by roots growing through pipes, or settling and shifting of the soil around your home.

There’s a distinct difference between a plugged drain line and a blocked or broken sewer line. If you have a basement and your kitchen sink is backing up, but the basement bathroom sink isn’t backing up, then you have a plugged drain line. Most minor clogged sinks can be cleared with a plunger.

If you have water being held in the lowest drain of the house – such as a bathroom shower or laundry sink – and everything except the lowest drain of the house is working, then the sewer is blocked. Blocked sewers are more serious in nature and can be expensive if not fixed as soon as possible. You should clean out clay pipe sewers at least biannually.

The City of Denver also does regular inspections on residential sewer lines and notifies homeowners if the homeowner is responsible for repairs.

What to do in case of an emergency 

If the city has notified you that you need to repair your sewer line, you will need to complete work within a few weeks, which can cost upwards of $10,000 in some cases. If sewage is leaking into your home, it can pose a very serious health risk to you, your family and pets. Here are some recommended steps for dealing with the problem:

  • Do not bring children or pets into the contaminated area. Clean up any surfaces, walls or floors that sewage has touched with a detergent and warm/hot water. Then sanitize the areas with Lysol/Pine Sol and water.
  • Call DURA to see if you qualify for assistance. DURA’s Wastewater Loan Program offers low-interest loans to low- and moderate-income homeowners to:
    • Repair or replace deteriorated or faulty private residential sanitary sewer and disposal systems
    • Clear, clean, scope and locate backed-up sewer lines
    • Establish a connection to a metropolitan sewer system to replace a private residential sewage disposal system
  • Have your sewer line inspected by a licensed professional as soon as possible.

Don’t ignore the problem

Did you know that there are more than two million illnesses caused by sewage exposure every year? Sewage contains bacteria and viruses that can affect humans and pets. Wastewater also commonly contains fungi, medications and pesticides. If you come into contact with these contaminants, you could get sick or even end up in the emergency room.

About our program

As part of DURA’s commitment to the homeowner, DURA oversees the work being performed by the contractor to make sure repairs are completed quickly, at a competitive price, with the highest quality work, and in the best interest of the homeowner.

To qualify for the wastewater program, you must be a Denver or Arapahoe county resident, own and live in your home, and have a household income at or below the thresholds listed on our program page.

Contact the DURA office at 303.534.3872 or email to info@renewdenver.org for more information and to see if you qualify.