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Sanitary Sewers - FAQs

Underground utilities can be a mystery to homeowners.  Although a mystery, the sewer system is an essential requirement for public health and sanitation.   The following frequently asked questions will help make you aware of how your sewer works.  
What is a sewer tap?
The sewer tap is the physical connection point where the homeowner's sewer service line connects to the city municipal sewer line.
What is a service line?
The service line is the sewer constructed by private owners for private use on their properties.  In other words, the service line serves a single user, not the community. The service line connects your home to the city sewer. The maintenance and repair of the entire service line is the property owner's responsibility.
What is municipal sewage?
Municipal sewage includes sewage collected from residences, public buildings, industries, and commercial establishments.  Municipal sewage is conveyed to a wastewater treatment facility.
What is a sanitary sewer system?
The sanitary sewer system includes all public structures (pipes, lift stations, sewer lines and manholes) in the wastewater collection system designed to convey municipal sewage to a wastewater treatment facility. If a pipe conveys water which needs to be treated, it is a sanitary sewer.  
What is an outfall sewer?
An outfall sewer receives wastewater from a collection system or from a wastewater treatment plant and carries it to a point of ultimate or final discharge in the environment. These are commonly known as interceptor sewers that carry our wastewater to the
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant.
What happens when I request service from the Public Works Department?
When you contact our customer service center, a customer service representative will enter your concerns into a database for tracking purposes. A service request will be generated and an inspector will be dispatched to investigate the issues. Initial contact usually occurs within 24 hours.
Why does the city research easements on my property when handling my sewer repair problems?
City employees do not have legal authority to dispatch crews onto private property to perform work without a legal document granting temporary or permanent access. This legal document is called an "easement." The easement allows city employees or contractors to perform maintenance on a publicly owned structure within the boundaries of the easement.
How are repair requests prioritized?
Requests are prioritized based on three criteria: public health and/or safety, environmental impact, and severity of the problem requiring repair.
What should a customer do when a sewage backup occurs in the home/yard, etc.?
If you experience a sewer problem, please call Public Works at 708-535-4090 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. After 3:30 p.m. or on weekends/holidays, you should call the police department's non-emergency phone number at 708-687-1376.  The Public Works supervisor on call will be notified. 
Who is responsible for cleaning up sewage spills, overflows, etc.?
Spills on private property or inside a private building are the responsibility of the property owner. The city maintains its sewers on a regular basis, but because there is no way to control inappropriate debris placed into the sewer, the Illinois Tort Immunity Act exempts the city from fault of sewer back ups when there is no knowledge of the blockage or negligence on the part of the city.

Many insurance policies do not cover sewer back ups.  Please check your policy and consider adding a rider for sewage back ups if you are not covered.  If you have sustained damage, please contact the Public Works Department at 708-535-4090 and your insurance carrier.  Public Works will come out and inspect the mainline for potential blockages.  We recommend that pictures be taken of any damage sustained to assist you with your insurance claim. 

Still need help?
We are here to help. Please call Public Works at 708-535-4090.