Dear PoP – unclogging/repairing a sewer line experiences?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoP,

We live on the 1800 block of Irving St, NW and we have a clogged main line sewer pipe. The clog is apparently on the other side of our property line and is on city property. I was wondering if anyone has ever dealt with WASA coming out and unclogging/repairing a sewer line?”

Anyone experience this before? Do you just call DCWater (formerly WASA)? How long does it take to get fixed?

13 Comment

  • This happened to me. I think it depends on the severity of the clog. I had a tree root enter my mainline on WASA’s territory (under the street). My plumber submitted necessary paper work to WASA (including video images of the clog). WASA was supposed to fix it 6 years ago and never did despite 3 previous attempts to follow up.

    Now I just use something called Root Be Gone to help dissolve the tendrils in the mainline. It seems to help.

  • Yes, contact WASA immediately.
    We had a similar situation last summer. We had sewage back up into our (unfinished, thankfully) basement and cover 75% of the basement floor. Totally awful. We cleaned the mess and called a plumber to clear the back-up. But the plumbers ran 50 feet of snake through the pipe and still couldn’t reach the clog. That’s when it was determined that the clog was in the city’s portion of the system. So I called WASA and they arrived shortly thereafter. They used a longer snake to try to reach the clog, but it was still too far out. So they brought in a giant jet truck to try to use the jet to push the clog out. They were successful in using the jets to get the clog out. Great news, right?! Not so fast. The crew forgot to take the snake out of the basement drain when they used the jet (which they accessed from outside the house). So…the clog was gone but everything flowed back up through the drain and 2 inches of sewage covered our basement floor AGAIN. I was nearly in tears at this point seeing everything I had worked so hard to clean (hours with a shop vac sucking up turds and more gallons of bleach than I can count) be covered in sewage again.
    Thankfully, since WASA was responsible for the mess, they gave me the number of several restoration companies they use. The cleaning crew came the next day and WASA covered the $2,200 bill for cleaning and replacing some lost items. (Of course, being DC government, it took a couple months and lots of phone calls and red tape to get reimbursed, but it did eventually come through.)
    Long story short, call WASA.

  • I had the problem when I first moved into my house. You have to call them to come out 3 times before they will actually do any work; it’s a magic number. My basement had to flood 3 times until they finally dug up the alley to fix the problem, and no they didn’t offer to reimburse me for my losses. They will blame you and the piping in your yard. Most often though, the trap at the edge of your property has failed and needs to be dug up. Tell them that you want the pipe snaked. They will avoid this until the third call if at all possible.

    Also, always call immediately after a rain. Of you wait until the area has dried out, they will deny that there is a problem.

    They will take any opportunity to not investigate the problem, so just be patient, polite and demanding.

  • I had this problem, and WASA was fantastic. They came out within hours of my call, well after normal business hours, on a godawful winter night. They were super polite and efficient. One of the best DC service experiences I’ve had.

  • I actually had a flood in my basement twice before we discovered the plumbing on DC’s side of my sewer line to the main sewer line was the problem. You will need to pay for an optical inspection of your sewer line, so that you can verify where the issue is. It’s important to note that you might not really own your entire front yard! My issue was in my front yard, but on the city’s side. WASA ended up digging deep into Newton street (12′-15′ down) to replace the connection to my sewer line. You can tell which of your neighbors has had this operation done, as there will be a PVC pipe (clean-out) coming out of your front/back yard.

    My insurance company (USAA) put together a case against the city, but did not pursue it.

    MAKE SURE YOUR HOME INSURANCE POLICY HAS THE SEWAGE BACKUP PROTECTION. I think mine was $8/yr. The two floods caused over $45k in damage together.

    Zero problems since the WASA operation.

    • I think you got hosed on the optical inspection. WASA is capable of snaking the line and it doesn’t cost anything. If the tip of the snake comes back with mud, there’s a collapsed line. You can measure the length of the snake to determine if the collapse is on the city side or your side.

  • Hello everyone – just want to point out our phone number if you need to reach us. It’s (202) 612-3400, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Alan Heymann
    DC Water

  • Better call soon, before Fenty leaves office. I have a feeling constituent services aren’t going to carry the same priority under Gray.

  • Glad to hear so many folks have had positive experiences with WASA. Maybe things have changed because when my sewage line was clogged a few years ago, interactions with WASA were a nightmare. It took almost two weeks and numerous visits from very rude WASA personnel (one guy walked through my yard and said not a word to me although I asked him direct questions) before the problem was solved.

    And, despite information to the contrary from my plumber and the WASA contract plumbers, WASA decided the clog was within my property line and refused reimbursement.

    When I protested to WASA’s claims reimbursement contractor (located in Pennsylvania at the time) my claim was denied with contraditory reason and no other recourse.

    I hope things have changed.

  • When this happened to me I found WASA to be very unresponsive. However, this was back in 2005. A friend’s mother, a 30 year district resident, who is friends with Jim Graham asked him to assist. While Mr. Graham didn’t personally liaison between WASA and I one of his helpful staff members ensured that WASA did what they needed. Not much fun, that is for sure. Good luck.

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