Sewage Spills

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San Clemente's 24 Hour Pollution Reporting Hotline is (949) 366-1553

How do I contact the City Utilities Division for NON-EMERGENCIES?

You may contact the City Utilities Division by telephone at (949) 366-1553 or fax at (949) 361-8234 or e-mail at

How do I contact the Utilities Division when there is an EMERGENCY water or sewer leak?

24/7 live Utilities Reporting Hotline (949) 366-1553

What is a sewer spill?

Sewage spills occur when the wastewater transported in underground pipes overflows from a manhole, broken pipes and or service lateral clean outs. Sewage spills can potentially cause health hazards, cause damage to homes, businesses and threatens the environment, local waterways and beaches.

How do I identify a sewer spill?

Sewage spills can be very noticeable, usually gushing water from a manhole, or a slow water leak that may take time to be noticed. Don’t dismiss wet areas that cannot be accounted for. Be aware of:  

  • Drains backing up inside the building.   
  • Wet ground and water leaking around manhole lids on your street.   
  • Seeping sewage (water) from service lateral clean outs and outside drains.   
  • Unusual odorous wet areas such as sidewalks, external walls, ground and or landscape around buildings.

What about sewer spills on private property?

Each property is connected to the public sewer system by means of a service lateral. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the service lateral to the point of connection to the public sewer line. Should a backup or overflow of sewage occur in the service lateral, the property owner or tenant must take immediate steps to clear the obstruction and to stop the discharge of sewer from their property. Allowing sewage to discharge into a gutter, storm drain or onto public property is a violation of State Health, Safety and Water Codes. In the event of a blocked service lateral please contact the City of San Clemente Utilities Division at (949) 366-1553. A member of the sewer collection system crew will be dispatched to inspect the pubic sewer to ensure debris removed from service laterals do not plug the main public sewer line. THERE ARE NO CHARGES FOR THIS SERVICE.

What are the most common causes of sewage spills?

  • Grease is the most common cause of pipe blockages. Grease builds up and eventually block sewer pipes. Grease enters the sewer system from household drains and from poorly maintained commercial grease traps and interceptors.
  • Structure problems caused by roots in the sewer lines. Roots enter the sewer line through cracked or broken pipes seeking moisture. Once established, roots continue to grow and expand in the sewer line eventually causing a blockage.
  • Infiltration of groundwater and rainwater into the sanitary sewer system. Infiltration is a result of pipe defects or illegal connections of yard and or roof drains connected to the sewer system Infiltration surcharges the sewer line exceeding its capacity causing overflows.
  • Maintenance on service laterals. When preventative and or corrective maintenance is performed on your service lateral, debris such as cut root balls or grease are pushed from the service lateral into the public sewer. Once in the public sewer this material tends to obstruct the flow of sewage eventually causing a blockage that can result in an overflow.
  • Roots can have a major impact on sewer lines. If your sewer lateral is close to a tree you need to consider scheduled maintenance to keep the lateral clear free of roots.

How can Sewage spills be prevented?

Sewer spills can potentially cause long term damage to the environment. You can help prevent them by:

  • Never discharging oil or grease down garbage disposals, drains or toilet.   
  • Perform periodic maintenance on your service lateral.
  • Repair structural problems on your service lateral.   
  • Disconnect illegal connections to your service lateral including yard and roof drains.   
  • Be selective with landscape planting materials that do not have aggressive root systems.   

Most importantly, if you are planning to have preventative and or corrective maintenance work done on your service lateral, please contact the Utilities Division at (949) 366-1553. A member of the Sewer Collection System crew will be dispatched to inspect the pubic sewer to ensure debris removed from service laterals do not block flow in the main public sewer line. The crews have the equipment to remove this debris from the public sewer before it causes a main line blockage. THERE ARE NO CHARGES FOR THIS SERVICE.

What are some easy tips to prevent grease blockage?

Grease and oils discharged into the sewer system attach to the walls of pipes and solidifies. With each discharge another layer forms until eventually the flow of water in the pipe is restricted and begins to back up causing an overflow.  By following the tips listed below you are well on your way toward maintaining a healthy service lateral and preventing costly maintenance and clean up activities resulting from sewer backups caused by grease:

  • Pour spent household cooking oils and grease into containers, let harden and dispose with solid waste.   
  • Wipe excess oil and grease from cooking pans with paper towel and dispose with solid waste.   

Restaurants and Commercial establishments have grease and oil traps or interceptors to keep grease and oils out of sewer pipes. To work correctly this equipment must be:

  • Sized correctly to handle expected amount of grease
  • Installed properly per codes
  • Maintained properly by having them cleaned and serviced regularly

For additional information you may contact the Utilities Division in person at 380 Avenida Pico Bldg. N or by phone at (949) 366-1553. Our office hours are Monday through Thursday 7:00 am to 4:30 pm and 7:00 am to 3:30 pm on Fridays.