What Business Owners Need to Know About Sewer Backups

As a business owner, you find yourself dealing with the most pressing issues facing your company first in your day-to-day work. Often, this approach means that you end up focusing on fundamental concerns like customer complaints, ordering and product inventory.

Unfortunately, this surface-level approach can leave you unprepared for more serious commercial issues, as you may have experienced during a past tax season or building inspection.

Some business owners who focus on short-term issues neglect one of the most important systems on their properties: their plumbing. In extreme cases, this neglect can lead to serious consequences such as sewer backups.

In this blog, we discuss the types of sewer backups, how these incidents affect businesses and how you can prevent them.

How Sewer Backups Are Categorized

When you hear the word sewer, the water you immediately picture is most likely blackwater. Blackwater consists — in whole or in part — of untreated sewage. Depending on the source of the water, blackwater can contain human and animal waste, expired food, dumped chemicals and other toxic materials.

Blackwater flooding occurs when onsite plumbing, like a toilet or septic tank, backs up.
However, many sewer backups consist of greywater instead. Greywater is water that comes from appliances or drainage lines but has been treated. Greywater can still be hazardous but does not contain raw sewage headed to a wastewater plant.

How Sewer Backups Affect Businesses

Either black or greywater sewer backups can have major repercussions for commercial properties. Some of these potential consequences include the following.


Some backups stay within the confines of a specific area, such as a safety shower stall, or can be contained within a single room that is away from the main business areas of the building. These backups may not cause closures or may only interrupt business for a period of hours.

However, backups that are not immediately contained almost always call for business closure until the issue is dealt with.

Health and Safety Hazards

Both black and greywater can pose health and safety risks while in the building and if not properly removed from a building. Sewer water often contains bacterial or viral disease, such as salmonella, E-coli and streptococcus.

Additionally, standing water raises the risk of electrical fire, insect or rodent infestation and slip and fall injury.

Inventory Loss

One of the most devastating effects that sewer backups can have on businesses is the loss of product inventory. Any items touched by and most items within the vicinity of blackwater must be disposed of. In businesses that offer food services, backups near any food inventory can result in total losses.

Additionally, inventory may be lost due to water damage or mould development if abatement does not occur right away, such as if the backup occurs over a weekend.

Restoration Costs

Backups can also damage your building itself, including the flooring, walls, appliances and furnishings. In most cases, commercial insurance does not cover sewer backups, so unless you have a specific policy, you could be responsible for the full cost of remediation.

You will likely need to work with a clean-up crew, restoration professional and plumber before you can safely reopen without health risks or unwanted issues like unpleasant odours or unsightly stains.

How to Prevent Sewer Backup Incidents

Being proactive about sewer backup prevention is the best way to protect your business. Prioritise regular plumbing services, especially sewer line inspections that can detect common causes of backups like tree root intrusion, foreign objects and grease clogs.

Don't let a sewer backup incident take you by surprise and potentially endanger your employees, clients and even your business as a whole. Integrate proactive plumbing and drainage maintenance, especially routine inspections, into your business plan.

For experienced commercial drainage emergency prevention and other plumbing services, trust RMC Reservoir Maintenance Contractors