to ABAG's sewer backup prevention program
Prevent backups

Sanitary sewer systems are designed to handle three types of waste products:
  • used water
  • human body waste
  • toilet paper

Keep your sanitary sewer working properly!

DO: Collect grease in a container and dispose of it in the garbage.
DO: Place food scraps in the garbage for disposal with solid waste.
DO: Place a wastebasket in the bathroom to dispose of solid waste. (Disposable diapers and personal hygiene products do not belong in the sewer system.)
DO: Use a backflow prevention device (BPD) as needed.
DONT: Pour grease, fats, and oils from cooking down the drain.
DONT: Use the sewer to dispose of food scraps.
DONT: Use the toilet as a wastebasket for garbage or chemicals. These items can kill “good” bacteria used for sewage treatment, cost much more to treat, and can enter the Bay.
DONT: Plant trees with shallow, spreading root systems near your sewer lateral. Tree roots seek water sources, such as cracked sewer lines. Once the roots have penetrated the line through cracks, the roots can create a dense mat and trap materials. Click here for more info.

Follow these simple DOs and DON'Ts.
You can help prevent sewer backups and avoid expensive plumbing and cleanup bills.

Prevent backups

If your sewer system doesn’t have a cleanout, you should have one installed to allow access to clear any blockage in your line. Even if you have a cleanout, you also need a backflow prevention device installed in the sewer lateral if your plumbing system is located below the cleanout or less than one foot above the nearest uphill sewer main manhole.

The type of backflow prevention device required depends on local codes and/or building requirements. Click here for some examples of the types of BPDs available.

Backup Prevention Devices or BPDs

BPDs allow water and backup materials to escape from the cleanout rather than flowing into the home. Many sewer relief devices or BPDs can be installed by the homeowner or a plumber. If not already installed, these items will be required if you remodel or add a bathroom to your home. Click here for illustrations of these devices.


A properly installed BPD may also protect your home from damage-causing overflows should your own sewer lateral line – the connection between your home and the sewer main – be broken or otherwise become blocked.


Q: How Will I Know If I Have a Cleanout or Backup Prevention Device (BPD)?
A: To check if your home has a cleanout or sewer relief device, look for lid, a round or square plate labeled “sewer” near the property, street or sidewalk in front of your home. In some cases, a cleanout may be located in the yard near the home or in the backyard if the sewer main runs behind the house.

Open the lid and you will see the top of the pipe leading to the lateral. This pipe is sealed by a cap that screws in place. A sewer relief device is a cap for the lateral with a spring-loaded top that “pops up” to allow water and materials to escape. They are often called pop-up devices.
Q: How Can I get a backup prevention device (BPD)?
A: Take our Be Sewer Smart Backup Risk Assessment Test. Then, select your community to see if it’s participating in the “free” BPD program. If so, fill out the simple online form for a free BPD. If not, contact your public works department or sanitary district for advice, assistance and to learn what programs are available in your community. Alternatively, contact one of the licensed plumbing contractors in your area for information about a professional assessment and installation of a BPD, if warranted.

Learn more about your sewer connection