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Wastewater Blockages and Backups#

Waste found in sewer system

The wastewater system contains service lines that flow from your property to main sewer lines in the street, and eventually to the water reclamation facility where it’s cleaned and released back into the Poudre River. These pipes carry water from your showers, toilets and sinks, which can become blocked if not properly maintained. 

Learn about customer responsibility and service line repairs.

Prevention is Key!#

Wastewater crews report that the most common blockages found in sewer mains and customer homes are due to "flushable" wipes or fats, oils and grease (see below). The combination of the two are extremely problematic.

Common Causes of Blockages#

Disposable Wipes

Wipes and other synthetic items don’t disappear when they leave your toilet bowl. They can get stuck in your pipes, break City equipment and cause sewer overflows.

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Sink Drain

Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG)

FOG sticks to the inside of pipes and harden like concrete. Do not put FOG down your garbage disposal.

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Tree roots in sewer pipes

Tree Roots

Tree roots can grow into pipes, causing leaks and backups. Customers in older parts of town or who have big trees are advised to work with a plumber for annual maintenance.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds

Composting is preferred for food and coffee grounds. Garbage disposals should be used properly (see tips below).

Garbage Disposal Tips

Hair clog in drain


Keep hair from going into the pipes by using a fine drain screen in bathtubs, showers and sinks.

Cat litter

Cat Litter

Cat litter should be thrown in the trash.

Garbage Disposal Tips and What to Avoid

Remember, a garbage disposal is not a trash can—it’s for food scraps only. It’s also important to never put fats, oil, or grease into a garbage disposal, as they stick to the inside of the pipes and harden like concrete. 

Tips for Best Use:

  • Run a steady stream of cool or cold water into the sink before turning on the garbage disposal and continue running it until finished.
    • Why cold water? It will cause any grease or oils that may get into the unit to solidify, so they can be chopped up before reaching the trap. Hot water causes grease to liquefy and accumulate and can cause drains to clog.
  • Before placing any food waste into the disposal, turn it on first.
  • Gradually feed food waste into the disposal, avoid putting in large amounts of food waste all at once.
  • Once the food waste has been broken down, turn the disposal off and let water run for 10-15 seconds to flush out any remaining particles.
    • It usually takes only a few seconds to grind food waste, although it varies. The sound of the disposal will change when there is no more food waste in the grind chamber.

Best Practices:

  • Keep your garbage disposal clean.
    • Pour a little dish soap inside and let the garbage disposal run for a minute or so with cold water after washing dishes.
  • Run your garbage disposal regularly. Frequent use prevents rust and corrosion, ensures all parts stay moving and prevents obstructions from accumulating.
  • Cut large items into smaller pieces and put them in one at a time instead of pushing down a large amount at once.

Do NOT Put Any of the Following in Your Garbage Disposal:

  • Bones
  • Coffee grounds
  • Melon rinds
  • Fats, oils or grease (FOG)
  • Fibrous foods (corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins, artichokes)
  • Expandable foods (pasta, rice, etc.)
  • Excessive amounts of potato peels
  • Cigarette butts
  • Glass, plastic, metal, paper
  • Anything combustible
  • Harsh chemicals (bleach or drain cleaners)
    • Borax is a natural sink cleaner and sanitizer that effectively works on odor-causing mold and mildew that accumulates in garbage disposals.

Maintenance Matters#

Tree roots in sewer pipes

Roots from a private sewer service growing into a sewer mainline on West Mulberry Street.

Utilities across the country are seeing an increase in sewer blockages, both on the customer side and in the main lines. A blocked sewer can lead to property damage and extra expenses for repairs. 

If you have a backup, call a plumber so repairs can be made as quickly as possible. You should also call Fort Collins Utilities (970-221-6700) to report the issue and your insurance company for further direction.

Prompt cleanup can lessen overall costs and resulting damage. If the City of Fort Collins is found to be legally responsible, the customer will be reimbursed for the reasonable costs of the initial cleanup. (Visit the City’s Safety, Security and Risk Management Department to file a claim.) 

For more information: email or call 970-221-6233. To report a blockage or backup, call 970-221-6700.

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