Keeping our sanitary sewer system running clean and free of blockages. Blockages can be costly to you and the community.
The sanitary sewer consists of around 680 kilometres of pipe that connects residential and commercial properties to the wastewater treatment plant and lagoons. Treated wastewater is then discharged into the Fraser River and other creeks and streams.
Nearly $2 million every year goes towards operating the wastewater treatment plant, which accounts for nearly half of the $4.5 million annual cost to maintain the sanitary sewer. Another significant expenditure is associated with responding to around 500 calls the City Utilities Division receives annually about blocked sanitary sewers.
As such, it is crucial that substances and waste materials entering the sanitary sewer system do not:
- Harm the environment.
- Damage the water treatment plant.
- Complicate the treatment process.
- Pose a health threat to maintenance and repair crews.
If a matter or liquid can reasonably be thrown into the garbage, do not flush it down the toilet or wash it down the drain.
Sanitary Sewer System By the Numbers
$4.5 million - Annual sanitary sewer operations and maintenance.
$1.9 million - Annual wastewater treatment operations.
500 - Annual number of blocked sanitary sewer service requests.
$420,000 - Annual cost of responding to blocked sanitary sewers and grease removal.
$1.7 million - Capital cost of vacuuming and flushing trucks to help remove blockages.
Where Waste Water Goes
Sanitary Sewer Blockages
Blockages in sanitary sewer mains can cause sewage to backup into a residence. Blockages may result from:
- Vegetation roots growing into the line.
- The improper disposal of items such as grease, wipes, diapers, washing machine lint, and other items flushed down the toilet.
Failing to act in a timely manner may increase damage to property and to neighbouring properties.
What to do if a Blockage Happens
In the event of a blockage, the first step is to contact the City Service Centre at:
The City will help identify the blockage's source.
- If the blockage is in the City's sanitary sewer main, the City will clear it.
- If the blockage is not in the sanitary sewer main, the property owner is responsible for clearing it.
Non-Sanitary Sewer Main Blockages
Property owners are responsible for removing any blockages within the sanitary service connection or building sanitary sewer. The following steps should be taken:
- Contact a plumber or licensed technical for assistance.
- Residents with homeowner's or other property insurance should also notify the insurance agent to see if the claim is covered.
- Document all actions taken (calls, contacts, costs) and take photographs of any damage caused.
For more information:
Property owners must keep the sanitary cleanout (the sanitary sewer connection's access point to a building) clear.
- Do not bury or pave over the cleanout. Any damage caused in locating the cleanout is the property owner's responsibility.
- If a cleanout needs to be raised or lowered or if the cap is missing or damaged, contact the City immediately.
- Any damaged caused to the cleanout due to the property owner's negligence will be repaired by City staff at the owner's expense.
- Cleanouts located in driveways are required to be in a valve box supplied by the City and are installed by the property owner or contractor.
sanitary Sewer dos and don'ts
- Use a strainer over the drain in sinks, tubs, and showers, and empty it into the garbage, not the toilet.
- Place food scraps in the compost or garbage, scrape dishes into the garbage, not the sink.
- Use biodegradable products for cleaning and doing laundry.
- Use the manufacturer's recommended amount of detergent for cleaning (the average household uses three times more than recommended). Cutting back also saves money.
- Place a garbage can in the bathroom to dispose of solid wastes such as disposable diapers, condoms, paper towel, and personal hygiene products.
- Take pharmaceutical products to a pharmacy to be properly disposed of.
- Pour liquid fats, oils, and grease into a jar or container with a lid to cool, and then throw it in the garbage. Wipe down greasy pots and pans with a paper towel, prior to washing them, in the sink or dishwasher.
- Use the "3 Rs": Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle.
- Use the toilet as a garbage can.
- Pour fats, oil, or grease down the drain as they will solidify in the cold pipe.
- Pour sour milk down the drain (One litre of three per cent milk has enough fat in it to cover the surface of an Olympic-sized swimming pool). Dispose of it in the garbage.
- Wash food scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds, or eggshells down the sink.
- Flush razor blades, condoms, pharmaceutical products, cigarette butts, nail polish remover, toilet rolls, or other non-biodegradable products down the toilet.
- Pour chemicals, paint, motor oil, pesticides, or any other harmful products down the drain. Check recycling depots for disposal information. Note: Improper disposal may result in fines.
- Flush out a commercial grease interceptor with hot water to clean it or wash it in the dishwasher. Remove all grease and dispose of it appropriately.
- Use excessive detergent, as it contains large amounts of oil, grease, and fat. It makes cleaning and treating waste water difficult and costly. This will result in less phosphate entering the water table, and will prevent excess algae growth in the water.
repair and reimbursements
The City will be responsible for any defects identified in the service connection. Any repairs required on the building's sanitary sewer side are the property owner's responsibility.
Reimbursement will be provided if the defect is within the service connection up to a maximum of:
- $185.00 for CCTV work
- $30.00 for a service locate
- $20.00 dollars for a DVD (plus tax),
If there are issues or problems on both sides, a partial reimbursement may be possible. This refund will only be approved once in a three-year period.
A DVD of the CCTV inspection must be dropped off at:
3990 - 18th Avenue
Prince George, BC V2N 4R8
If the CCTV inspection video does not meet City standards it will be returned without reimbursement.
Claims Against the City
The City is not presumed to be responsible for the consequences of a blocked sanitary sewer line simply because the blockage is on the City side. The City is governed by the British Columbia Local Government Act and is considered immune against certain nuisance actions caused by a breakdown or malfunction in the sewer system.
For more information:
The City will also not provide reimbursement if the City has not been notified of a blocked sanitary sewer at the time of an incident.
For more information and assistance, contact:
Ask a plumber or licensed technician these questions and document the answers:
- Was a snake, root cutter, or another method used to clear the blockage?
- If a root cutter was used, what size was it? Note: This is only a temporary solution
- How many times did the plumber work the line with the snake or root cutter? (It usually takes several passes to ensure complete removal a blockage)
- What was the total distance of root cut or snaked? (This will identify if the entire line was cleared)
- Where was the blockage located?
- Did the plumber suggest a CCTV inspection? (This is a costly expense but is recommended for recurring sanitary sewer backups or problems)
For more information:
Septage Disposal Facility Discharges
Source Control Program
Prince George's source control program identifies harmful substances before they can enter the city's wastewater, storm water, and groundwater. Many products routinely used at home and at the workplace may cause a number of problems including:
- Posing a risk to public health and safety.
- Damaging the City's waste water treatment plant and affect treatment processes.
- Affecting surface and groundwater quality.
For more information on preventing wastewater, storm water, and groundwater contamination:
The City started the Source Control Program in 2015 to safeguard public and worker health, property, City infrastructure, and the environment.
City staff work with residents and commercial, industrial, and institutional operations to ensure they follow Prince George's sewer bylaws. Education and outreach are key to the program's success. Other source control program activities include:
- Building plan and development review.
- Industrial monitoring.
- Compliance sampling.
- Issuing waste discharge permits.
- Site inspections.
- Spill prevention and response.
- Bylaw development.
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Effective source controls help the City better manage sewer maintenance and treatment costs. The Source Control Program also ensures Prince George meets provincial and federal environmental regulations. The program's other benefits include:
- Keeping sewers running effectively.
- Reducing the chance of costly sewer backups.
- Helping avoid lost business revenue and negative publicity from public health closures.
- Promoting healthy homes, workplaces, and communities.
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Sanitary Sewer Use Bylaw
City staff have done extensive research and public consultation to prepare an updated Sanitary Sewer Use Bylaw to better safeguard City infrastructure and protect City staff, the public, and the environment.
The new bylaw is also intended to reduce sanitary sewer maintenance and wastewater treatment costs. Changes in the new bylaw include:
- Clarifying the responsibilities of the City and property owners.
- Creating a more comprehensive, fair, and effective means of compliance.
- Updating the list of prohibited and restricted substances.
- Encouraging treatment of harmful substances at the source.
- Assisting businesses in finding solutions to meet bylaw requirements.
The proposed draft bylaw was presented in an Information Report to Council at the June 10, 2019 Council meeting and a Report to Council at the September 9, 2019 Council Meeting. Final Reading and Adoption occurred at the October 7, 2019 Council Meeting.
For more information
For additional information:
Information from the Public Open House held January 30, 2019:
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Commercial premises sometimes produce wastewater that requires controls to ensure compliance with local regulations. Operations that could potentially discharge oils, sand, and grit are required under the BC Plumbing Code to install an interceptor device to protect the sanitary sewer system. Controlling harmful substances at the source prevents dangerous wastewater discharges and brings other benefits like:
- Improving workplace safety.
- Avoiding costly clean-ups.
To track oil-water separator calculations for clean out requirements:
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Wastewater discharges that do not meet the requirements outlined in the City of Prince George Sanitary Sewer Bylaw can have serious consequences on public health and safety, municipal infrastructure, the wastewater treatment processes and the environment.
Waste Discharge Permits are issued to industries, businesses, and institutions that discharge significant, non-domestic wastewater containing specified chemical contaminants into the sanitary sewer system.
Waste Discharge Permits issued by the City:
- Are site-specific regulatory authorisations granting permission to discharge waste to the sanitary sewer.
- Contain discharge requirements and best management practices designed to limit the impact of the discharge and the potential for illegal discharges.
- Specify requirements for wastewater treatment, effluent quality, monitoring and reporting.
- Are of specified duration.
- Are authorisations that may be amended, suspended or cancelled.
To discuss whether a business may require a Waste Discharge Permit, contact the City at:
For more information:
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Report a Problem or Submit a Service Request
Request a storm water connection be installed or removed or report a problem with drainage, flooding, or ponding.
Submit a request online or call 311 (250-561-7600 if outside city limits).