September 15, 2004 at 8:09 PM EST - Updated July 27 at 5:50 AM
What to do if you experience sewage backups in your house after a storm.If you are on a septic tank, wait for the saturation of ground water to soak in.If you are on city water, call your utility to find out if you are on a lift station that is not working properly.
Q: What if I smell gas and suspect a leak?
A: If you have an idea where the smell is coming from, such as a water heater, stove, oven, gas dryer or furnace, you can turn the gas off at the appliance. These valves are located within three feet of the appliance on the gas piping system.
If you have no idea where the gas leak is coming from, it is always best to turn the complete system off and call the gas company. The main gas shut-off valve is located on the inlet side of the gas meter. In most cases, this valve is on the vertical pipe left of the meter. It is necessary to use a crescent or pipe wrench to turn this valve off, again, making the handle perpendicular to the pipe with a quarter turn. You may want to hang a crescent wrench next to the main valve to avoid searching for the tool in an emergency. If you have any questions about the location of the gas main, call your gas company.
Q: What do I do about an overflowing toilet?
A: First, turn off the water at the valve under the toilet. If the toilet is not operating because the sewer is stopped up, a homeowner can help prevent overflowing by opening their sewer clean-out (located outside the building) to relieve the pressure on the system. Then call your plumber or a drain-cleaning company.
Q: What if I don't have a sewer clean-out?
A: It's important to understand that the sewer line is the main drain which receives the waste from all plumbing fixtures in the house. When this pipe is stopped up, every plumbing fixture will be affected. Water seeks the lowest level and any water permitted to enter the plumbing system at a higher level, such as a kitchen sink, will back up at a lower fixture, such as a toilet or shower. So when this happens, do not allow any more water to run into the system from anywhere in the house until you have had a plumber clean the sewer line.
If the electricity goes out, some waste water may be released to the environment without treatment. Backups into residents’ homes and businesses may occur, but the majority of wastewater overflows will occur outside at manholes and wastewater pump stations. This situation will continue until electricity is restored. Because waste water may be discharged onto the ground, residents should assume that all surface waters are contaminated with fecal matter. i.e., canals, lakes, standing water on lawns, roads and in swales. Contact with this contaminated water could cause illness or disease. Residents should minimize contact with surface water and should wash their hands thoroughly prior to touching consumables. Children should not be allowed to play outdoors until further notice.
For homes with reverse osmosis water filtration systems, you may need to take special precautions before drinking water that has been sitting in your tank.If your home was under a boil water alert, and you have run water through your system, contact your manufacturer or installer.If you have not run any water through the system since before the boil water alert, you may not have bacteria infected water in your tank.Contact your manufacturer or installer to find out if it is necessary to remove and clean your filters and membranes.If you do not know who to call, feel free to direct your specific questions to Rick Rickenbach at Enterprise Plumbing in Jupiter (561) 744-7540.