Site Accessibility Information Access Key 1 to Skip to Top Navigation Access Key 2 to Skip to the Three One One link Access Key 3 to Skip to City of Winnipeg Main Menu Access Key 4 to Skip to Left Navigation Menu Access Key 5 to Skip to Content area Access Key 6 to Skip to Right Sidebar content area Access Key 7 to Skip to Footer Links
City of Winnipeg
|  Link to the City of Winnipeg French websiteFrançais  |

Preventing sewer backups

Preventing sewer back-ups

FAQs about grease traps

A grease trap is a plumbing device that collects grease and prevents it from going down your drain. Fat, oil and grease hardens as it cools and sticks to the inner lining of sewer pipes, eventually causing a blockage. A grease trap will protect your sewer and save you money.

Read our frequently asked questions about grease traps.

Don't throw garbage down the drain

Things that go into the sewer through toilets, sinks or storm drains can clog our sewer system or end up in our rivers. You can help make a difference in the health of our waterways by following these proper disposal suggestions.

Sewers and tree roots

Roots from trees growing near sewer lines do not actively penetrate sewer pipes and cause blockages. Roots gain entry through previously cracked portions of sewer pipes.

Sewer lines should be kept in good repair, properly maintained and regularly cleaned. This is especially important in older structures where tree roots often gain entry to sewer pipes through cracked portions of the pipe, causing blockages.

Learn how to prevent sewer back-ups due to blockages by tree roots.

Protect your home from basement flooding

Even if you or your neighbourhood have never experienced problems with basement flooding, heavy rainstorms can overwhelm city sewer systems. Overloaded sewers can back up through house sewer lines and flow into basements that aren't protected.

Learn how to protect your home from basement flooding.

Don't throw garbage down the drain

Help keep our rivers clean. Don't use the sewer as a garbage can.

Photo of prohibited materials in a toiletThings that go into the sewer through toilets, sinks or storm drains can end up in our rivers. You can help make a difference in the health of our waterways by following these proper disposal suggestions:

In your home or where you work

Put the following items in the garbage where they belong, instead of down the drain:

  • cigarette butts
  • dental floss
  • condoms
  • rags
  • tampons and tampon applicators
  • sanitary napkins
  • disposable diapers
  • human and pet hair
  • cotton swabs
  • cosmetics/makeup
  • wipes (pre-moistened personal hygiene towelettes, often advertised and labelled as flushable or biodegradable)
  • food scraps (an even better solution is to compost them or dig them into your garden)
  • vegetable and animal grease, fats, oils (these substances can clog the sewer in your home and the City system and cause sewer backup)
In your yard and on the street

Anything on the ground can wash into the storm drains on streets and lanes and end up in the rivers, so:

  • clean up your pet waste.
  • check your vehicle regularly to make sure hazardous waste fluids, such as oil, antifreeze and gasoline, aren't leaking.
  • don't litter.
  • don't put grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste on the streets or into rivers – not only do they add harmful chemicals and nutrients to the rivers and clog storm drains, it's against Sewer By-law 106/2018.
Hazardous waste products, chemicals and prescription drugs

These potentially dangerous substances don't belong in the garbage or dumped down the drain – they need special handling.

  • Dispose of hazardous waste products safely by taking them to a free household hazardous waste collection depot.
    • Information on collection centres is also available by contacting 311
    • These danger symbols can help you identify many hazardous waste products – e.g., corrosive, explosive, poison and flammable
      Corrosive, explosive, poison and flammable hazardous waste symbols
  • Many chemicals can damage the sewer in your home and the City system. Plus, our wastewater treatment plants may not be able to remove them and they can end up in the river, harming fish and other aquatic life.
  • Take leftover or expired prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines to a pharmacy where they will be disposed of safely.

Sewers and tree roots

Property owners are responsible for maintaining sewer lines from a building or private residence to where it joins the main line. Sewer lines should be kept in good repair, properly maintained and regularly cleaned. This is especially important in older structures where tree roots often gain entry to sewer pipes through cracked portions of the pipe, causing blockages.

About trees, tree roots and sewer pipes

  • Roots from trees growing near sewer lines do not actively penetrate sewer pipes and cause blockages.
  • Roots gain entry through previously cracked portions of sewer pipes.
    • Sewer pipes inevitably deteriorate through old age or separate and crack due to ground shifting and heaving.
  • Sewer pipe is laid approximately 2 metres, or more, deep.
  • The only tree roots at that depth are anchor roots, as the finer and fibrous feeder roots are located within the first metre of soil.
  • Anchor roots can co-exist with intact sewer pipes indefinitely without causing blockages.
  • A sewer line leak allows sewage and air to escape into the soil, creating a ratio of air, water and nutrients at that depth that becomes similar to those found near the surface. Anchor roots at the site of the leak produce very fine, opportunistic feeder roots that can enter the sewer pipe.

In situations where the property owner requests (in writing) the removal of publicly owned trees for the reason of sewer line blockage, a representative of the Forestry Branch will inspect the tree(s) and make a decision in this regard. Publicly owned trees are not normally removed for the reason of sewer line blockage. Healthy trees are a valuable asset to the community and the City and are only removed when they are dead, diseased, dying, involved in approved construction or are hazardous in terms of safety or visibility.


Last updated: August 28, 2019