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Sewer Line Maintenance & Preventative Measures

workers servicing and maintaining sewer lines

Our guide delivers expert tips and strategies for sewer line maintenance to prevent costly repairs and ensure efficient sewage system operation.


Businesses and homes rely on a working sewer system. When sewer lines and plumbing aren’t functioning properly, it can stop everything in its tracks until any issues are remedied. Proper sewer line maintenance is critical for keeping the system flowing smoothly. Deferred maintenance can balloon into any number of situations that can take longer to address than if caught ahead of time. Sewer line preventative maintenance addresses minor issues and gets ahead of larger problems before they can impact operations.

What is a Sewer System?

A sewer line system is a network of pipes and equipment that moves wastewater from its source to a treatment or disposal site. Sewer systems are critical in preventing pollution, protecting public health, and maintaining environmental quality.

Types of Sewer Line Systems

There are two main types of sewer systems. Most municipalities and industrial facilities employ both.

  • Sanitary Sewer Systems (SSS): An SSS carries non-sewage waste—such as water from a shower drain line and urban runoff—and releases it back into the environment with little or no treatment. 
  • Combined Sewer Systems (CSS): A CSS carries both human waste and runoff to a water treatment facility, where the raw sewage is sanitized before being released into the environment.

How Sewer Systems Work

When a toilet flushes or water goes down a drain line, the wastewater flows through a home’s plumbing system to a main sewer line. Most sewer mains slope downward, and gravity moves the waste to a treatment plant. Special pumping stations pressurize the wastewater and push it through in areas where water needs to move uphill.

Some facilities may use self-contained septic systems. These systems employ tanks to hold sewage, and special trucks remove the waste from the tanks to haul it away. 

Common Sewer Line Problems

Regular sewer line preventative maintenance should be a part of every preventive maintenance management plan to help avoid many of these common sewer system problems.

Blockages and Clogs

Foreign objects, food waste particles, hair, and other debris going down the drain can accumulate in a facility’s or home’s sewer lines and create blockages that obstruct the flow of wastewater. 

Tree Root Infiltration

Tree roots can find cracks in sewer lines and joints as they seek water sources and nutrients. As the tree roots grow, they can fully penetrate a line and create difficult sewer line clogs.

Pipe Corrosion and Deterioration

Pipes and joints corrode and deteriorate over time. Corrosion and deterioration can lead to excessive debris infiltrating, clogging a line, and causing backups. 

Sewer Line Bellies and Sags

Improper installation, settling, and soil erosion can result in low spots in sewer lines. Wastewater accumulates in these recesses, called sags and bellies, where the standing water collects debris over time that can cause sewer line clogs.

Sewer Line Leaks and Breaks

Many factors, such as aging and temperature fluctuations, can cause cracks and breakage in sewer lines. A sewer line breach can lead to flooding and accumulating unsanitary water, contributing to health problems.

Sewer Line Preventative Measures

Preventive sewer line maintenance is critical to ensuring consistent wastewater flow from your facility to its ultimate destination. By creating a preventive maintenance checklist that includes the following items, your organization can avoid downtime and costly repairs by getting ahead of potential sewer line problems.

I. Regular Inspections

Schedule routine inspections and regular cleaning of sewer lines to prevent debris buildup that can lead to blockages. 

Homeowners can address smaller issues, such as ensuring the garbage disposal is catching everything it should and ensuring no sewer leaks in or around the home.

  • Visual inspections: A standard inspection involves visual examination of visible pipes and lines, as well as high-tech imaging systems able to detect micro-fractures that can grow into full-fledged cracks and breaks. 
  • Sewer camera inspections: A qualified professional runs a camera through the line to identify potential problems, including sags, fractures, and areas conducive to creating blockages.

II. Tree Root Management

Prevent intrusion by cutting back tree roots and employing root-killing agents. These proactive measures can help immensely reduce the likelihood of tree roots infiltrating sewer lines.

  • Root barriers are dense, waterproof enclosures installed underground around the perimeter of a tree. These barriers redirect roots away from pipes without harming the tree.
  • Landscaping professionals and arborists employ several tools and methods to cut roots away from sewer pipes and drain lines. 

III. Grease Trap Maintenance

Minimizing the amount of grease that enters a plumbing system helps keep the sewer line clean. Perform regular maintenance on grease traps to prevent grease buildup in drains and sewer systems and reduce the risk of blockages and backups.

IV. Pipe Lining

An epoxy coating along the sewer pipe interior helps repair small fractures in sewer lines. Many linings create a brand-new sewer pipe inside existing lines, reinforcing the existing structure and acting as a reliable substructure as the original line deteriorates further.

V. Proper Disposal

Avoid flushing non-flushable items. Most paper towels, reusable wipes, and feminine hygiene products can accumulate along the sewer line path, creating clogs that can back up a sewage system.

Properly dispose of engine oil, grease, and commercial chemicals. Improper disposal can create environmental hazards and lead to action from a regulatory agency.

VI. Cleanouts and Access Points

Identify and mark the sewer line cleanout locations. Cleanouts are access points that give plumbers easy access for inspections, maintenance, and repairs.

Seasonal Maintenance Considerations

Each season brings its own challenges to sewer line preventative maintenance. A facilities management checklist should include seasonal maintenance tasks to inspect, maintain, and clean sewer lines. 


Springtime sewer line preventative maintenance should include inspections of outdoor areas. Look for signs of pooling water where sewer pipes are buried, and ensure that downspouts are directing rainwater away from the home and other structures to prevent excess water infiltration.


During summer sewer line maintenance, inspect the sewer line cleanout for blockages and root infiltration. Perform tree root control measures to prevent intrusion into sewer pipes and plumbing systems. Schedule maintenance and inspections with a professional to address any potential high-level issues.


Fall maintenance includes clearing out gutters and downspouts to prevent water buildup near sewer lines. Check these areas for signs of leaks and consider scheduling a sewer line camera inspection to assess any further preventative maintenance or repair needs.


During the winter, protect exposed pipes from freezing with heat tape or heating cables. Insulate pipes in unheated areas and verify that existing insulation adequately covers the pipes. Be cautious of excessive snow and ice accumulation around the home and other structures. Clear away as much as possible to avoid flooding and sewer system infiltration during a thaw.

The Importance of Regular Sewer Line Maintenance

Routine maintenance of sewer systems is critical to the smooth functioning of a plumbing system and the overall well-being of your property. Seasonal sewer line preventative maintenance enables you to address issues before they get out of hand, reducing the need for costly repairs.

Maintain a Reliable Sewer System with ServiceChannel

For industrial and commercial organizations, a solid facility management software solution like ServiceChannel offers several powerful tools to help gather and analyze real-time maintenance and asset-usage data, provide predictive maintenance recommendations, and help with preventive maintenance scheduling. Look at ServiceChannel today and learn how this powerful platform can streamline your sewer line maintenance practices.

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