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Old 02-27-2011, 07:23 PM   #1
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


I live in California and after living in my home for 14 years, I just had my first clog and had my sewer line cleaned out (this was 4 months ago). Yesterday I had another clog and I called out the same Plumbing service. They opened up my sewer vault in the ground and found it full of solid waste and TP. They cleaned it up and charged me again for the work.

After thinking about this last night, I started scratching my head trying to figure out how all this solid waste could get in this compartment (it approximately 1' long by 6" wide and 1' deep below ground level).

I called the plumber that did the most recent work and asked him if the cap was off the cleanout - he said yes and that the previous crew probably didn't tighten the cap enough.

I said I wanted to talk to the Manager or owner of the company to discuss - and got a call about 1/2 hour later. He said that leaving the cap loose is a safety feature and it is appropriate to not tighten the cap which will allow the waste to flow out of the cleanout in case of a clog and NOT back up into the house. He said it was better to back up into the ground than into the house.

Now this just doesn't sound right to me - as this could be a hazzard to the soil and a possible EPA violation. I would think that the cap SHOULD be tight and not allow this to leak into the soil. If this leak went on without detection, it was the same as dumping raw sewage into the ground continually.


Is there anyone out there that can confirm what is proper:
  • loose cap to allow waste to spill out into the soil
or
  • tight cap to keep the waste in the sewer system
Keep in mind that I am in California if this makes any difference.

Thanks for everyone's help.


Last edited by Roadrider; 02-27-2011 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 02-28-2011, 09:05 AM   #2
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


Quote:
Is there anyone out there that can confirm what is proper:
  • loose cap to allow waste to spill out into the soil
or
  • tight cap to keep the waste in the sewer system
Keep in mind that I am in California if this makes any difference.
The cap should be tight. To prevent a sewer back-up you should have a back-flow preventer installed. Even if it's not required by code, it's a good preventative measure to prevent not only back-up into your home, but environmental contamination.

If you have a problem with the sewer line, i.e. roots, cracks, breaks, offset joints, bellies, etc. the lateral should be either repaired or replaced. If the problem isn't serious enough to constitute repair or replacement, make sure you're proactive in your maintenance.

Here's a good read for California:

http://www.sewersmart.org/index.html

Not sure how this free back-flow device program works, but check it out:

http://www.sewersmart.org/freebpd.html

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Old 02-28-2011, 10:34 AM   #3
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


The cleanout cap is supposed to be tight but many people leave it loose so that backups will occur outside instead of in their house.

Depending on where you live in California, your local sewer agency may be responsible for your sewer lateral downstream of your cleanout. If you have overflow in your cleanout vault, the blockage is downstream of that. My advice would be to call your sewer agency and quit paying plumbers to cleanup a mess that may be the responsibility of your sewer agency.
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:15 PM   #4
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Originally Posted by loftezy View Post
The cleanout cap is supposed to be tight but many people leave it loose so that backups will occur outside instead of in their house.

Depending on where you live in California, your local sewer agency may be responsible for your sewer lateral downstream of your cleanout. If you have overflow in your cleanout vault, the blockage is downstream of that. My advice would be to call your sewer agency and quit paying plumbers to cleanup a mess that may be the responsibility of your sewer agency.
Backups:

A backup occurs when waste or debris has obstructed a home's plumbing system or lateral, resulting in clogged or slow-moving drains or toilets. A backup occurs on the homeowner's property and the expense and responsibility for cleanup and repair lies with the homeowner.
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:11 PM   #5
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


I talked to the city today and they said leaving the cap loose is code. This prevents the backup into the home.
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:13 PM   #6
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Originally Posted by LateralConcepts View Post
To prevent a sewer back-up you should have a back-flow preventer installed. Even if it's not required by code, it's a good preventative measure to prevent not only back-up into your home, but environmental contamination.

Here's a good read for California:

http://www.sewersmart.org/index.html

Not sure how this free back-flow device program works, but check it out:

http://www.sewersmart.org/freebpd.html
I'm going to look into the Back-Flow preventer. Thanks LateralConcepts for the good information - much appreciated. I will look into this further.
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:17 PM   #7
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Backups:

A backup occurs when waste or debris has obstructed a home's plumbing system or lateral, resulting in clogged or slow-moving drains or toilets. A backup occurs on the homeowner's property and the expense and responsibility for cleanup and repair lies with the homeowner.
I see that you got that information from the sewersmart website. The website also says this: "In many communities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the upper lateral that runs under their property. The city or sewer district is responsible for maintaining the lower lateral and the main.

In other communities, homeowners must maintain the entire lateral.

To be sure about your responsibilities, you can call your local sewer or sanitation district, located in the phone book under Government listings for wastewater utility services."

Where is your cleanout that you found the spill? Was it behind the sidewalk? If so, there is a chance that the sewer district may fix it without charging you...I'm just offering good advice
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Old 02-28-2011, 02:06 PM   #8
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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I talked to the city today and they said leaving the cap loose is code. This prevents the backup into the home.
You're kiddin'!? Ha. Wonder what the EPA thinks of that response?
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:24 PM   #9
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Originally Posted by loftezy View Post
I see that you got that information from the sewersmart website. The website also says this: "In many communities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the upper lateral that runs under their property. The city or sewer district is responsible for maintaining the lower lateral and the main.

In other communities, homeowners must maintain the entire lateral.

To be sure about your responsibilities, you can call your local sewer or sanitation district, located in the phone book under Government listings for wastewater utility services."

Where is your cleanout that you found the spill? Was it behind the sidewalk? If so, there is a chance that the sewer district may fix it without charging you...I'm just offering good advice
I have called the City Sanitation District - I am responsible for the lateral in my yard up to 5' from the streed or main.

Thanks for your advice.
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:27 PM   #10
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Originally Posted by loftezy View Post
I see that you got that information from the sewersmart website. The website also says this: "In many communities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the upper lateral that runs under their property. The city or sewer district is responsible for maintaining the lower lateral and the main.

In other communities, homeowners must maintain the entire lateral.

To be sure about your responsibilities, you can call your local sewer or sanitation district, located in the phone book under Government listings for wastewater utility services."

Where is your cleanout that you found the spill? Was it behind the sidewalk? If so, there is a chance that the sewer district may fix it without charging you...I'm just offering good advice
I have contacted the City Sanitation District and I am responsible for the lateral up to 5' from the street or main. I can ask the city to install a City Clean-out, but they are not obligated.

Thanks for your input
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:29 PM   #11
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You're kiddin'!? Ha. Wonder what the EPA thinks of that response?
That is the first thing that came to my mind as well.
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Old 02-28-2011, 04:49 PM   #12
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


I think it is still worth your time to figure out where the blockage is occurring. Keep in mind that residential gravity sewer lines are not designed to work under pressure flow (this is what you have when you have a sewer spill). Something is wrong if you are having sewage spilling out of your cleanout.

What did the plumbing service do when they cleaned out your sewer four months ago? Did they find a root problem? Broken pipe? FOG? Sewer pipes typically don't plug themselves in a four month period unless there is something wrong with the pipe. Or did they only clean up the mess from the spill and not actually address the problem?

I understand why you are worried about the cleanout cap being left off the cleanout but I'd be more concerned with trying to find the reason why my sewer lateral isn't draining properly because you will eventually find the spill in your bathtub as opposed to your cleanout vault.

You might actually get lucky and find that the blockage is five feet from the street or main. Also, it is my opinion that a backflow preventer should be a last resort and it will only be a bandaid in addressing your problem.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:04 AM   #13
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Loose cleanout cap = waste spillage in soil?


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Originally Posted by LateralConcepts View Post
You're kiddin'!? Ha. Wonder what the EPA thinks of that response?
If rain overloads a sewage treatment plant, the sewage is rushed through without regard to whether treatment was complete. The ultimate destination is still a river or the ocean.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 03-01-2011 at 07:08 AM.
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