Sanitary Sewer Backups

If you experience a backup of your sanitary sewer, determine first if drains back up only when you run additional water into them. If so the blockage is most likely in your lateral pipe and is your responsibility to clear. If sewage has entered your home while no water was being used or continues to spill out of drains after water use is discontinued, something may have blocked the public main and the KLSWA should be contacted immediately.

Sewer Backup Information

The KLSWA makes every effort to be responsive to citizens needs when the unfortunate situation of a backup occurs. Unfortunately, each case has its own unique set of circumstances which may effect any type of claim settlement that could ensue.

To aid you in understanding the complexities of liability in sewer backup claims, the following information is supplied by the KLSWA.

1. The KLSWA is not automatically liable for resulting damages whenever a sewer backs up. It is only liable for those damages if the backup was caused by negligence on the part of the Authority.

2. Many homeowner policies exclude damage resulting from sewer backups. Thus, homeowners often end up looking for the Authority to pay their damages when their homeowner’s insurance denies their claim. Residents connected to the KLSWA sewer system should check their policies to determine the extent of coverage provided. Residents should also check with their agent to determine if this coverage is available as a rider and at what cost. It may be prudent to find a carrier who will provide coverage against backups in the event your current carrier does not.

3. Michigan courts have made it clear that a municipality, or a sewer and water Authority, does not and cannot guarantee that its sewers will never back up.

Because a sewer is not a closed system, many things put into sewers can clog the system. While the KLSWA can adopt rules prohibiting discharge of certain items to the sanitary sewer, and can try to educate the public about the problems improper discharges cause, there is no way that we can absolutely prevent it from happening. There is always some risk associated with connection to a public sewer system.

The courts have made it clear that the KLSWA is liable for damages only if the Authority’s negligence caused the damage. There are four basic questions the courts look at in deciding this issue. The Authority is liable if the answer to all four is yes.

1. Was there a defect in the public sewer line?

2. Did the Authority know, or should it have known, about the defect?

3. Did the Authority fail to correct the defect within a reasonable time after learning of it?

4. Did that failure by the Authority cause damages?

If the Authority exercises reasonable care in inspecting and maintaining its sewer lines, and if it responds to problems in a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner, it is not liable when sewer backups occur. Using these legal guidelines, the Authority has established general common sense procedures dealing with sewer backups. If you do experience damages due to a sewer backup and wish to present a claim please contact the Authority for additional information. We will review the claim information and do our best to achieve a reasonable outcome.


To present a claim, you will be required to provide the following items.

1. Copies of receipts for cleaning costs.

2. A list of damaged items and receipts to prove the ages of your items.

3. Any other information which will help determine the extent of the damage.

4. Three estimates for replacement of damaged items.

If you do not provide sufficient detail to support your claim, the items will lose much of their value. Reimbursement for the Actual Cash Value of damaged items is the maximum amount payable.

Click here for a fillable PDF Claim Form.