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Waste Water Treatment Plant : Sewer Back-up Policy
Waste Water Rates

Sewer Back-up Policy

Policy Overview:

Sanitary sewer back-ups occurring in the sanitary sewer collection system or within a customer owned sewer lateral can cause waste to back up into homes and/or businesses with little or no warning. These back-ups can occur for a number of reasons that are caused by both natural and man-made conditions.

Sturgeon Bay Utilities has historically taken a proactive approach to maintaining the City’s entire collection system network, cleaning this underground piping network and conveyance system in its entirety on at least a 5-year cycle. Additionally, areas that are considered susceptible to adverse conditions are cleaned more frequently on a scheduled or as-needed basis.

Regardless of the level of preventative maintenance on the part of the utility, problems with the collection system resulting in sanitary sewer back-ups can occur.


If a sanitary sewer back-up is experienced, residents or businesses should call Sturgeon Bay Utilities immediately BEFORE a plumber is called. The Utility representative receiving the call shall record the following information on the appropriate form(s):

  1. Date & time of request for service
  2. First & last name of person requesting service
  3. Address of affected property
  4. Call back phone number for person requesting service
  5. Call back phone number for affected property (if different than person requesting service)
  6. How long has problem been experienced?
  7. Is problem isolated to one location or throughout business/residence?
  8. Has this problem occurred in the past? If yes, when?
  9. Have you contacted a plumber? If yes, who? When are they scheduled to arrive?

Utility operations staff shall be dispatched immediately to check the operating condition of the Utility-owned sanitary line providing service to the home or business for any obstructions or signs of surcharging.

If it is determined that the Utility’s main line is functioning properly and the property owner has not yet called a plumber, the owner will be provided with a list of plumbers that are licensed and qualified to clean obstructions from the customer-owned lateral that connects the customer-owned service lateral to the Utility-owned collection system. This cleaning service shall be documented by the plumber accordingly and, if practical, should be completed in the presence of a Sturgeon Bay Utilities operations employee.

Responsibility for Back-up Defined:

By determining precisely where the blockage exists within the customer-owned service lateral, the Utility can accurately identify who is responsible for the work performed by the plumber. In determining responsibility for costs associated with the cleaning of a customer-owned lateral that is connected with a Utility–owned collection main, Sturgeon Bay Utilities shall refer to Wisconsin State Administrative Code, Chapter NR110, for guidance. Said code provides the following definitions to aid in the understanding of that portion of a conveyance system owned by the Utility vs. that portion of a conveyance system owned by the property owner.

NR110.03 – Definitions.

(28) “Sewerage collection system” means the common sanitary sewers within a sewerage system which are primarily installed to receive wastewaters directly from facilities which convey wastewater from individual structures or from private property, and which include service connection “Y” fittings designed for connection with those facilities. The facilities which convey wastewater from individual structures, from private property to the public sanitary sewer, or its equivalent, are specifically excluded from the definition of “sewerage collection system”…

(30) “Sewerage system” means all structures, conduits and pipes, by which sewage is collected, treated, and disposed of, except plumbing inside and in connection with buildings served, and service pipes, from building to street main.”

By definition, the Utility is responsible for the collection mains by which the sewage is collected and the “Y” fittings that connect this main to the individual service laterals. The customer is responsible for the service lateral from their business or residence to the Utility-owned structure or collection main.

In cases where the blockage falls within the customer-owned service lateral and its location is deemed in close proximity to the Utility-owned main or “Y” fitting as referenced above, such proximity to be determined on a case by case basis, measurements shall be provided to aid in the final determination of responsibility for payment of services. The Utility shall allow a distance of two (2) feet from the Utility-owned main to allow for the “Y” fitting, as the exact location or limit of said fitting is not easily determined without excavation.

Payment for Services:

The owner shall be responsible for the initial payment of any and all services to relieve a blockage that falls within the customer-owned service lateral. If it is determined that the Utility is liable for the blockage for any reason, payment of the appropriate amount for services rendered shall be provided by the Utility to the owner.

In those instances where the Utility’s conveyance system is found to be partially or directly at fault for the back-up, the owner, with assistance from the appropriate Utility Supervisory or insurance carrier personnel, shall file a claim with the Utility’s insurance carrier. Any decision to reimburse such costs and/or fees associated with said back-up under these circumstances shall rest solely with the insurance carrier.

The Utility shall not be responsible for late fees or charges in conjunction with a delinquent billing from a qualified contractor that are the direct result of the owner not paying the bill while responsibility for the back-up is being determined. All such fees shall be the responsibility of the owner. All other fees incurred by the owner in conjunction with a sanitary sewer back-up shall be the responsibility of the owner. Under no circumstances shall the Utility exceed thirty (30) days in making the appropriate determination of responsibility for said back-up.

Utility Held Harmless:

The Utility strives to proactively maintain its entire collection system network, cleaning this underground piping network and conveyance system in its entirety on a regular basis. Areas that are considered susceptible to adverse conditions are cleaned more frequently on a scheduled or as-needed basis.

When a back-up is experienced as a result of routine or emergency maintenance work performed by the Utility or their representative, the Utility shall not be held liable for said back-up unless it can be determined that it acted with negligence. Such instances shall be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


As part of our sanitary sewer back-up policy that was recently approved by the Sturgeon Bay Utilities Commission, please find below a list of firms located in Door County that are capable of providing service to relieve your sanitary sewer service lateral blockage.

This list is being provided to you as a service and is not intended to endorse or recommend any of the firms listed. These firms are all capable of providing the necessary services to your lateral and are licensed and bonded in the State of Wisconsin.

Anschutz Plumbing & Heating Inc. Baileys Harbor 839-2211
Englebert/Larsen Plumbing & Pump Sturgeon Bay 743-4261
Englebert/Larsen Plumbing Brussels 825-7884
Larsen Sewer & Drain Cleaning Sturgeon Bay 743-2797
Schoenbrunn Plumbing Co Inc. Sturgeon Bay 743-2711
Septic Maintenance of Door County Sturgeon Bay 743-5793

For assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service department at (920) 746-2820. We are happy to assist you with this or any aspect of your utility services.

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