Sewer Back-Up Info

In Case of a Sewer Back-Up –  If you discover a sewer back-up or overflow in your home, discontinue household water use and immediately call the East Lansing Department of Public Works at (517) 337-9459 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. During holidays and evening/weekend hours call the East Lansing Police Department’s non-emergency line at (517) 351-4220.

Sewer Back-Up Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do keep your sewer cleanout accessible and be knowledgeable of where your sewer cleanout is located in case of a back-up emergency. The cleanout is a pipe located near the property line that rises from your sewer line to about 4” above ground level and is capped. It is often located in a basement, front yard or back yard. If you do not have a sewer cleanout or your sewer cleanout has become buried, hire a licensed plumber to install a cleanout or raise your existing cleanout.
  • Do make sure you are covered for back-ups with your homeowner’s insurance policy. If not covered, call your agent for information on costs and coverage options. Most insurance companies offer a rider for water damage or failure of a sump pump.
  • Do save all receipts related to any repair, cleaning or damages if a back-up does occur. Also, take a lot of pictures with descriptions of where the damage occurred. This information will be useful when working with your insurance company.
  • Don’t dispose of grease down the drain. Back-ups are often the result of a grease buildup in the drain. Pour greasy or oily food waste into a coffee can or other container. Allow animal fats to solidify before scraping the pan or throwing the grease container in the trash.
  • Don’t flush diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, baby wipes or condoms down the toilet. Flushing such items can easily cause a blockage in the drain.
  • Don’t plant trees near sewer lines. The Department of Public Works (DPW) will make every effort to assist homeowners with planting trees in public right-of-way; however, private sewer line locations cannot be guaranteed. It is a homeowner’s responsibility to locate private sewer lines. A licensed plumber can be hired to help locate private sewer lines.
  • Don’t connect clean water drains or sump pumps to the sanitary sewer system.

Public Act 222: Sewer Back-Up Legislation
The State of Michigan passed Public Act 222 in 2001, which clarifies the conditions under which municipalities may be liable for a sewer back-up. Public Act 222 sets standards to determine the extent to which a municipality could be liable for back-ups and establishes a process that affected persons must follow to seek compensation when back-ups occur. Although East Lansing makes every effort to be responsive to citizen’s needs when the unfortunate situation of a sewer back-up occurs, it is important to note that the City is not responsible for private sewer lines (lines that run from the home to the street) and each incident has its own unique set of circumstances which may affect any type of claim settlement that may ensue.

Anyone making a claim for property damage or physical injury due to a sewer back-up must prove that:

* The public sewer had a defect
* The governmental agency knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known about the defect.
* The governmental agency having the legal authority did not take the reasonable steps in a reasonable amount of time to repair, correct or remedy the defect.
* The defect was 50 percent or more of the cause of the event and property damage/physical injury.
* They own and have related the value of the damaged personal property

If you think you have met ALL five of these criteria and intend to make a claim, you must file a written claim with the City of East Lansing within 45 days of discovery of the back-up. Claim forms are available at East Lansing City Hall upon request and must be mailed to: City of East Lansing Department of Finance, Attn: Elizabeth Caesar, 410 Abbot Road, East Lansing, MI 48823. Contact (517) 319-6911 with any additional questions.

Water Infrastructure

To safeguard public health, maintain our quality of life and economic growth and protect the environment in the coming years, much of the City of East Lansing’s water and sewer pipes will need to be replaced and/or enlarged due to their age or limited capacity. Learn more.



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