Sewer Backups

A Little Grease Can Cause Big Problems!

Grease can enter the sewer system at virtually any point, including your kitchen sink. You might think that it can't do any harm to allow a small amount of grease to go down the drain as you're cleaning up, especially if you rinse with very hot water. But hot water cools quickly, and so does hot grease. When it cools, it solidifies. Imagine that tiny amount of grease that slips down your drain multiplied several thousand times (all of Hastings Utilities sanitary sewer customers.) solidifying as it cools, sticking to the insides of sewer pipes, trapping food particles and all kinds of other debris in the wastewater. Over time, this messy mass can grow until the flow of water is obstructed and sewage begins to back up.

Where does grease come from?

Most of us know grease as a byproduct of cooking. Grease is found in such things as:

  • Meat Fats
  • Lard
  • Cooking oil
  • Shortening
  • Butter and margarine
  • Food scraps
  • Baking goods
  • Sauces
  • Dairy Products

Home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of the plumbing system. These units only shred solid material into smaller pieces and do not prevent grease from going down the drain.
Commercial additives, including detergents that claim to dissolve grease may pass grease down the line and cause problems in other areas.

The results of a grease blocked sewer pipe can be:

  • Raw sewage overflowing in your home or your neighbor's home.
  • An expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often must be paid for by you, the homeowner.
  • Potential contact with disease-causing organisms.
  • An increase in operation and maintenance costs the city sewer department, which causes higher sewer bills for customers.

Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent this problem:

  • Do not put dairy products, fats, oil, grease or greasy foods down the garbage disposal or drain.
  • Freeze small amounts of fats, oils and grease in a lidded container and dispose of it in a trash receptacle.
  • Mix small amounts of cooking oil with an absorbent material such as cat litter or coffee grounds, place it in a lidded container and dispose of it in a trash receptacle
  • Wipe additional grease from pots, pans and plates with a paper towel before placing them in the sink or dishwasher.
  • For large quantities of cooking oil and other fats (1 gallon or more), call the City of Hastings Landfill at 461-2308.

What else should NOT go down the drain?

Paper Products:

Paper towels, disposable (and cloth) diapers, and feminine products cause a great deal of problems in the property owner's line as well as in the main. These products do not deteriorate quickly, as does bathroom tissue. They become lodged in portions of the lines where there is an accumulation of any type of debris, and dam up the line, causing sewer backup. These products should also be disposed of in the garbage can.

Many work shop towels are not biodegradable and are not to be flushed down the sewer. Please dispose of them in lidded trash container.


Though they may not clog your sewer line, most chemicals can not only cause damage to your sewer line, they can make it difficult to treat the wastewater as it enters the Hastings Utilities' Pollution Control Facility by damaging expensive equipment and requiring more time for the treatment process ultimately leading to higher sewage treatment bills for the customer. These chemicals include:

  • Antifreeze
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides
  • Cleaners/solvents
  • Fertilizers
  • Paint/thinners
  • Fuels
  • Herbicides
  • Hobby supplies
  • Pool chemicals
  • Used motor oil

To dispose of these and other hazardous materials call the City of Hastings Landfill at (402) 461-2308.

What other things may cause my sewer line to backup?

Tree Roots:

Shrubs and trees, seeking moisture, will make their way into sewer line cracks. These roots can do a lot of damage. They may start out small, getting into a small crack in the pipe; but as the tree or shrub continues to grow, so does the root. After time goes on, this causes your sewer line to break, allowing debris to hang up in the sewer line, and eventually causing a backup.

One way to prevent roots from entering your line is to replace your line and tap with new plastic pipe. The other alternative is to be careful about planting greenery around you sewer line, or purchasing a product from your local plumber containing "copper sulfate", which helps to kill roots when you pour it down your drain. These products should be used with extreme caution, following the direction carefully. We suggest that you have the roots cut in your line semi-annually.

What to do if you are Experiencing a Backup

If you are experiencing a sewer backup please call Hastings Utilities, we will respond to your call 24/7 any day of the year. There is no cost to the customer for this service. A representative from Hastings Utilities will check the condition of the city main sewer in the street. If the city sewer main is flowing and unobstructed, then you will be instructed to contact a plumber. We advise you to call us first before you call a plumber. Hastings Utilities will not be responsible for charges from a plumber or contractor.

City sewer mains sometimes unfortunately do back up, when this occurs Hastings Utilities will clear the blockage in the main to restore flow. Then you will be given a card with information to contact a cleaning service contractor. Charges for cleaning and drying from the contractor listed on the card will then be reviewed by Hastings Utilities for payment.