To report burst or leaking pipes, contact us on 131 872. Keep an eye out for things like unusual green patches in the lawn near the footpath, extra water in the gutters etc. Contact us to report these incidents as they may be caused by burst or leaky water pipes or blocked sewers.
What happens when a sewer becomes blocked
If Council owned mains become blocked, the sewage has nowhere to go. This could result in the waste being forced back through the pipes and onto a resident’s property. If this happens, the sewage is often released into private yards from the overflow relief gully (ORG) which is a small grated opening usually located close to the house. The ORG can either be fixed or designed to pop up and release sewage if a blockage occurs.
Importance of the overflow relief gully (ORG)
Some residential homes have an Overflow Relief Gully (ORG). If your sewer blocks, on ORG will release any sewage overflow to the outside garden, keeping it away from the inside of your home. An ORG is a drain-like fitting outside your home. It's lower than the other waste outlets in your house and has a vent-like top that pops off in an emergency. Older style homes are more likely to have 'disconnector gullies or vents' that look similar to ORGs, but will nor pop open in an overflow. Often these can be converted.
It's important to have a current model that doesn't have to be opened manually and will pop out completely in the event of a spill, so that the sewage can escape unhindered.
To operate properly, the ORG must be lower than the other waste outlets in your home; including the toilet, all sinks, baths and showers. That way, if sewage backs up it will reach the ORG first and spill from there. In addition, the ORG should be 75mm above the surrounding ground to ensure stormwater can't flow directly into it. In particular, make sure landscaping, garden beds and paving are not raised to the same height as the ORG. If the ORG is covered, sewage will not be able to escape during a spill. Keep pot plants and other items off the vent. Make sure any landscaping or garden beds do not cover the ORG or obstruct the path of the sewage in the event of an overflow.
Keep an eye on your ORG to ensure it hasn't become blocked or obstructed and correct any corrosion or silt build up that will prevent the top popping open. Ensure the drainage path is kept clear so that any spill can drain away quickly and not build up around the ORG itself.
How we will deal with a sewage overflow
When you report a blockage or overflow to us, you will be asked a series of questions to help us understand whether the blockage or overflow situation is your responsibility or ours. House or drain blockages are the property owners’ responsibility. If it is a Council related problem, we will come to your property as soon as possible and clear the blockage. Once the problem is fixed, we will clean up the external areas that have been affected by the overflow. This involves removing any physical contaminants and then applying a disinfectant.
The contaminated section of the yard will be disinfected in two ways. Firstly, a chemical disinfectant will be used to treat the area. Secondly, the sun’s UV rays will act as a natural disinfectant while also drying out the ground. The number of pathogens in the soil should return to normal or the near normal after 7-10 days.
What you should do after a sewage overflow
After we have cleaned and disinfected your yard, you should follow some precautions until the area is no longer contaminated:
- Avoid the contaminated area if possible.
- Apply basic hygiene practices.
- Advise any visitors to the location of the contamination.
- Carefully monitor children’s and pets access to the area.
- Monitor family members’ health and consult your doctor immediately if there are any signs of illness.
Sewage has the potential to carry micro-organisms which can cause diarrhoea and other diseases, such a Hepatitis A, Salmonella and Giardia. These can be easily killed with household disinfectants. The odours may be unpleasant but are not harmful.
What to do if sewage enters your home
In some cases the overflow relief gully (ORG) may not work effectively and/or the flow rate of the sewage may be so strong that the ORG isn’t able to release all the material. In this situation sewage may be directed back into the house and seep up through floor grates, shower and bath grates and toilet bowls.
We cannot take responsibility for any internal cleaning if the sewage has backed up into the house. It is the householders’ responsibility to arrange the cleaning, but we strongly suggest residents contact their insurance company about the problem and follow their instructions.
If you’re cleaning up after any sewage-related incidents. We advise you follow some important hygiene and safety practices:
- Ensure you wear protective rubber boots and gloves.
- Wash your hands after removing your gloves.
- Clothes and other items that come into contact with sewage should be washed thoroughly.
- Remove odours and disinfect the soiled area with a solution of bleach (one part bleach in 10 parts water) and do not use ammonia.
Making a claim for sewage related damages
If you believe you have grounds to make a claim against us for damages you will need to put your request in writing. Send a letter to us outlining the situation and include any quotes or receipts for cleaning and repair work.
For more information about making a claim for damages, contact our Insurance Officer on 131 872.