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Tree roots can affect sewers and what you can do about them

Tree roots get into sewers when a sewer pipe develops a crack or other damage and nutrients and moisture leak into the soil, attracting the roots. About 50% of all sewer backups and overflows in the Town are caused by tree roots. Not only do sewer lines on private property get clogged, but the roots can grow into the Town’s sewers causing spills from those pipes as well.

The solution: Root penetration can be remedied by repairing the faulty sewer pipe and ridding the pipe of roots. The maintenance of private sewers is the responsibility of private property owners. The Town will repair and clean out public sewer lines. Long established Town policy assigns responsibility for the construction, maintenance and repair of house connection sewer service lines from the main to the serving property to the property owner.


Fats, oil, and grease can block sewer lines.

Fats, oils, and grease often stick to the insides of sewer pipes when washed into kitchen plumbing systems. This can block pipes and cause spills that back up into the kitchen or overflow on private property and in the streets, causing property damage, environmental problems, and other health hazards.


    AT HOME 

  • Scrape grease and food scraps from plates, pots, pans, utensils, and grills (or other cooking surfaces) into a container or directly into the trash can for disposal.
  • Do not put grease down garbage disposals.
  • Use baskets or strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids and dispose of them in the trash.


  • Implement Kitchen Best Management Practices
  • Install a grease interceptor that is sized and manufactured to handle the amount of grease byproduct anticipated.
  • Maintain your grease interceptor in proper operating condition by having it cleaned and serviced frequently.


The Town is reducing spills that pose a risk to our health and the environment. Maintenance crews regularly clean the sewers to prevent spills. They also respond to emergencies when a sewer blockage occurs. As a result, the number of spills in the Town has significantly decreased over the last five years.

Fats, oil, grease, and tree roots from our homes and businesses are the most common causes of spills. The result can be a sewage overflow, usually through maintenance holes and onto the street. The sewage then runs into the gutters and eventually into storm drain inlets. The storm drain system is connected to our rivers. Spills create a hazard that is potentially dangerous to our health and the environment because the wastewater that overflows is not treated.

How odors are caused and how the Town prevents them. Odors usually remain inside of the sewers, but when a pipe runs quite full and/or the sewer changes its elevation underground enough to stir up the wastewater, smells build up to the point where they can escape to the outside air. Odors can escape sewers through pick holes in maintenance hole covers, through vents, and other very small openings in the pipeline and connection points.

Sewage blockages can also cause backups into homes and businesses that do not have properly operating sewer backwater valves.

Sewer laterals are pipes that connect buildings to the public sewer system and are considered private sewers. Property owners are responsible for operating and maintaining sewer laterals.

After Hours Emergency Contact

For after-hours emergencies call (901)-387-9005 or 911 to receive help for a utility emergency.

Avoid Utility Scams

Utility Scam Spreads Across the Nation An increase in reported utility scams nationwide involves callers claiming to represent utility companies, demanding payment for a past-due balance through a prepaid card, and threatening to shut off service if payment is not received.

This is an attempt at fraud. Some of the attempts have included emails and phone calls, but the Town of Somerville discourages all customers from providing personal, confidential information to any unknown party. Please report suspicious calls or other types of contact to your local police department or Federal Trade Commission.

How to Avoid Falling for Scams*:

  • Be wary of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide your Social Security Number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident with whom you are speaking.
  • Use your own personal information. Always pay your bills with your own personal information; never pay your bills with information that is not your own.
  • Do your research. If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
  • Beware of the door-to-door sales approach. Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or reported a utility problem. Always ask utility employees for proper identification.
  • Be proactive. If you already have provided information to someone claiming to offer this service, contact your bank immediately. Also contact the three national credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and request a notation be made on your account so that it doesn’t impact your credit rating.
  • Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not become victims. The elderly are common victims of this type of scam, but anyone who pays a utility bill is a potential victim.