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Sewer cleaning and inspection program

What are sewers?

Sewers are underground pipes that carry wastewater from homes and businesses to one of the three pollution control plants where it is treated and then released to the river. Everything you pour down your drains or flush down your toilet goes into a sewer.

Why are you cleaning and inspecting the sewers?

The cleaning and inspection program keeps the sewer system operating efficiently by:

  • helping prevent blockages and backups
  • removing built-up debris, such as tree roots, grease, grit and sand
  • determining the condition of the sewer so we can repair or replace sewers as necessary

How do you clean the sewers?

We use a high-pressure nozzle to flush water down the sewer. The dirt and debris are sucked up through a manhole by a large vacuum truck and taken to the landfill.

How do you inspect the sewers?

View down sewer as cleaning progressesWe insert a remotely operated video camera into the sewer to record its condition. From the video we can tell if we need to repair or replace the sewer.

Do you clean and inspect the sewers at the same time?

We clean and inspect some sewers at the same time. We clean others and then return within two weeks to inspect them. If we have to return to your street to inspect them, we will leave another notice advising you to take the same precautions to prevent water damage.

How long does it take to clean the sewers on each street?

It usually takes about one day to clean the sewer on each block. However, some sewers can take longer, depending on their size and condition.

Do I need to do anything before you clean/inspect the sewers on my street?

Yes. Occasionally during cleaning and inspection, air pressure in the sewer can cause water to splash out through toilets, sinks and drains. Take the following precautions to prevent water damage in your home:

  • Close the lids on all toilet bowls when not in use.
  • Insert drain plugs in all sinks and bathtubs when not in use.
  • Remove all floor mats in bathrooms.
  • Place an old towel around the base of toilets.
  • If you have a float plug in your floor drain or a backwater valve installed in your house, ensure that it is free of debris and operating properly.
  • Wrap the cover of your basement floor drains with thick plastic (i.e., a freezer bag). Place something heavy over the floor drains to keep the plastic-covered floor drain covers in place.

If you are running your cold water tap to prevent your water line from freezing, run water from a tap at the highest elevation in the house (i.e. main floor or upper level, not basement) without inserting the drain plug. Please follow the precautions above for all remaining fixtures (toilets, sinks, and drains).

You may put things back as they were when the equipment has moved off your block.

Will I notice anything after you have cleaned/inspected the sewers on my street?

Sometimes the sewer cleaning and inspection leaves an odour in the home. If so, run some water down the sink and bathtub drains, flush the toilets, pour a pail of water into each basement floor drain, and open the windows. After a short time, the odour should disappear.

Can I use the toilets and my water while you are cleaning and inspecting the sewer on my block?

Vactor truckYes. However, be careful as air pressure in the sewer during the cleaning and inspection can sometimes cause water to splash out through toilets, sinks and drains. Remember to close the lids on all toilet bowls when not in use, and insert drain plugs in all sinks and bathtubs when not in use.

How will I know when you are cleaning the sewers on my street?

In most cases, we will put a notice in your mailbox one or two days before we clean the sewers on your street. If we need to clean the sewer quickly because of a blockage, we won't have time to let you know in advance. We will, however, leave you a letter letting you know we cleaned the sewer.

Ways you can protect your home against sewer backup

The sewer cleaning and inspection program is one of the steps that we take to reduce the risk of sewer backup.

There are steps you can take to protect your home against basement flooding, including:

  • install a backwater valve and sump pit drainage system
  • check and maintain your backwater valve and sump pit drainage system regularly
  • improve drainage around your house

For more information, visit our protect your home from basement flooding page or contact us.

When do you clean and inspect the sewers?

We have two types of programs:

  1. A sewer cleaning program only - we move around the city all year cleaning areas where there are persistent problems and doing emergency work to clear blockages.
  2. A sewer cleaning and inspection program - we clean and inspect sewers in selected areas of the city each year, usually from April to October, Monday to Friday (occasionally Saturdays), from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. On streets with high traffic volumes and high wastewater flow during the day, we may have to do this work at night. We realize that the equipment is very noisy and may disturb residents. Sometimes this cannot be avoided and we appreciate your patience.

    There are more than 2,400 kilometres of sewers in Winnipeg. Eventually, all sewer pipes will be cleaned and inspected.

    In 2018, we're cleaning and inspecting sewers in these neighbourhoods (indicated in blue):

    PDF version (pdf - 261kb).


Contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding this work.

Keep your children away from the sewer equipment at all times.

Last updated: April 24, 2019

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