Homeowner Tips

Reasons Why a Sewer Backs Up

Sewer Line Clogs

Clogs to your sewer line can happen for a multitude of reasons, including tree roots, debris, pipes collapsing or bending, grease being poured down the drain, and more. Signs of a clogged pipe include:

  • Debris in water coming from drain
  • Terrible odor
  • Overflow from drains or toilet

Sanitary Main Blockage

Sometimes the FRSA’s sewer main line can become clogged. If you suspect the FRSA’s sewer main is clogged, contact Four Rivers Sanitation Authority’s sewer backup department 24/7 at 815-387-7600. During business hours’ staff will assist in determining if the blockage is in the main line or a service line related issue. If the issue is service line related, a contractor will be required to assist in cleaning the service line. This is a home owner’s responsibility. If the call is received after hours, you will be directed to contact a licensed and bonded contractor. The contractor will check the FRSA’s main line for flow and will report to on-call staff a main line problem. If the contractor determines the main line is flowing and the problem is with the service line, the contractor will clean your service at your expense including any after hours or emergency call fees

Dangers of Sewer Backing Up

Increases Chances of Getting Sick

Sewage backing up can cause illness or disease. Contaminants, viruses, and bacteria found in sewage pose a severe hazard to people and their pets. Furthermore, sewage may contain additional hazardous chemicals such as pesticides, prescription medication residues, fungus, and protozoa. 

Failure to properly handle clogged pipes or your sewer line backing up can lead to increases in bacteria that cause severe health risks with symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea, ear and eye infections, liver infections, ulcers, and muscle aches.

Mold Growth

Flooding and water damage have always been one of the homeowners’ worst fears. Water damage from sewage backups may cost a person their valuable items or perhaps their home, depending on the amount of water. And sometimes, insurance agencies won’t cover the damage caused by water and mold. It’s important that even after you remove standing water from your home, you thoroughly clean the previously flooded area to remove mold.  

Breathing Trouble

Breathing, drinking, showering, or touching mold can greatly affect your health. Standing water, flooded, or water spots can increase humidity in the rooms in which they are present and can trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to mold. Any dampness from water damage, mold, or standing water should be cleared and cleaned immediately.

Preventing Sewer and FRSA Main Backups

Properly dispose of grease

Meat fats, oils, sauces, dairy products, and food scraps going down a drain will bring about clogs and all the struggles that follow. When cooking or manually washing the dishes, do not flush fats, oils, butter, sauces, food scraps, and any other greasy substances into the sink. They are to be disposed of in the garbage. Many detergents do dissolve grease, but only temporarily. Eventually, the grease comes out of the solutions and will stick to the pipes. Properly collecting and scrapping the grease and scraps into a can or container and disposing in the garbage is the best way to keep it from causing you and your neighbors sewer problems.

Properly dispose of paper products

Many materials can clog sewer mains and cause backups not just for you, but your neighbors: grease, paper, recyclable items, diapers, paper towels, rags, wipes (even when labeled as flushable), food scraps and other items. Please dispose of such items appropriately. They should not be injected into sewers.  

Cut tree roots periodically

Roots may seriously damage a homeowner’s sewage lines, and for a homeowner, this might be one of the costliest repairs they can encounter. When tree roots reach pipes, they can make their way into the gaps and fissures, obstructing appropriate flow, acting as a net, collecting household fats, oils, hair, grease, grit, tissue paper, and other solid waste. If you notice the contents of your flush start to back up, it’s time to have a professional plumber inspect your lines.

When planting new trees make sure they are located at least 10 feet away from your pipes. If tree roots are found in your sewer lines, you can have tree roots mechanically cut, have them dug up, use a tree root removing chemical, or have a professional use a hydro jetter to clear clogs and buildup by blasting water into the pipes. This method for removing tree roots is not harmful to the environment.

Correct illegal plumbing connections

Gutters, sump pumps, and other storm water systems should not be routed to the sanitary sewer. If you know of such a connection, immediately disconnect it or report it to Four Rivers Sanitation Authority using our Contact Us page.

What To Do If Your Sewer Backs Up

Turn Your Water Off

First and foremost – turn off your water if you’re experiencing any of the signs of a clogged pipe or backed up sewer. From there, contact Four Rivers Sanitation Authority or call a plumbing contractor from our list of FRSA Licensed/Bonded Contractors.

Contact Four Rivers Sanitation Authority

You can contact our sewer backup department 24/7 at 815-387-7600. During business hours, staff will assist in determining whether the FRSA’s main line is blocked and clear the main line in the event it is blocked. FRSA is responsible for maintaining and restoring service to the main sewer lines only. If FRSA’s main line is clear, then the homeowner will be advised to contact a licensed contractor to service their sewer connection. From there, the homeowner is responsible for any and all contractor costs associated with clearing the line.

Contact a Licensed Contractor

Four Rivers Sanitation Authority partners with plumbers and contractors in the region to assist in emergencies and issues. The list below are licensed and bonded contractors for you to reach out to for assistance. A resident is not required to use a contractor from this list. The advantage of using a contractor from the list means you are hiring a contractor who has proven they are insured and are knowledgeable on FRSA’s ordinance regarding the maintenance of sanitary sewer lines. These contractors also participate in FRSA’s Sewer Service Cleaning Voucher Program providing a $100 discount directly to residents at the time of service. Any single family or duplex residence is eligible for this discount once every 2 years. Additionally, these contractors are able to check FRSA’s main lines for flow prior to providing service line cleaning. In the event it is determined that FRSA’s main line is blocked, the contractor will notify FRSA immediately to dispatch staff and you will not be charged. Contractors are not allowed to clear FRSA’s main lines and are unable to clear a main line problem from your service.  Should your service connection need maintenance to restore flow, the contractor costs including any after-hour or emergency rates will be your responsibility.

Erik Nelson Drain
Attn: Erik Nelson
2202 Quail Run
Rockford, IL 61103-1936


License Number

Warranty Period
30 days

Pearson Plumbing & Heating
Attn: Don Howe
2415 20th Street
Rockford, IL 61104


License Number

Warranty Period
1 year

Christopian Services, Inc. DBA: Roto-Rooter
Attn: Todd Silberhorn
3333 Forest View Rd
Rockford, IL 61109


License Number

Warranty Period
30 days

Frink’s Sewer & Drain, Inc.
Attn: Tammy Tracey
PO Box 1004
Rockford, IL 61105-1004


License Number

Warranty Period
30 days

Edwards Sewer & Drain Service
Attn: Matt Edward
5125 20th St
Rockford, IL 61109


License Number

Warranty Period
30 days

TNT Sewer & Drain Service
Attn: Rob Tucker
1906 Oak Leaf Dr.
South Beloit, IL 61080 


License Number

Warranty Period
90 days