Sewer Backups


I have a sewer backup. What should I do?

  • Your first step is to get an initial inspection, clearing, and draining of the sewer lateral performed, ideally by a professional. For ease of inspection, clearing and draining of sewer laterals, we strongly recommend that property owners ensure that a proper cleanout is installed:
    • 4” in diameter (Long Beach Utilities Department (LBUD) Policy Section 1406 Sewer Lateral Responsibility, Appendix 3)
    • Off Structure, ground level (not located in/on wall of structure)
    • On the downstream side of structure (no longer runs under any buildings)
  • Get the lateral to drain by means of snake or hydrojet (by homeowner or private plumber) (LBUD Policy Section 1406 Sewer Lateral Responsibility, Appendix 2)
  • If the video shows an issue on City property, please submit that video to LBUD, Attention Manager of Sewer Operations, 1800 E Wardlow Rd, Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (562) 570-2440 for more information.

If the property owner believes that there is problem on the city property’s line preventing wastewater from draining to the sewer main, Long Beach Utilities will investigate after the property owner performs the initial inspection, clearing, and draining of the sewer lateral.


A cross bore is when a natural gas pipeline passes through a small segment of sewer pipeline. This may cause your sewer line to back up or not work properly. If this occurs, clearing out a sewer line with a “Tree Root Cutter Snake” could cause a gas leak which can lead to a serious accident.


Whether doing it yourself or hiring a licensed plumber, Long Beach Utilities recommends the following:

  1. Before you begin:
    • During regular business hours call 811 for utility line locations. This is a free service and may help identify intersecting lines.
    • An inspector is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week to locate your gas lines. Please call (562) 570-2140.
    • Look for an exterior cleanout fitting and use when possible.
  2. During the cleaning:
    • We DO NOT RECOMMEND that you use a cutting tool.
    • We RECOMMEND that you use an in-line camera inspection device to identify the cause of the blockage.
    • If you see orange or yellow pipe, DO NOT PROCEED. Call (562) 570-2140 immediately.
    • Use minimally-invasive equipment such as a plumbing snake or water jet to attempt to clear the blockage.
    • We can quickly verify that there is not a cross bore and that it is safe for your plumber to proceed with clearing the sewer line.
  3. When finished (if you HAVE used a cutting tool):
    • Check the blades for yellow or orange plastic when it is withdrawn from the sewer line. Natural gas utility lines are typically made of this color plastic.
    • If you smell natural gas or suspect a gas leak, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY from a safe location away from the odor of gas.
    • Bubbles in the toilet may be an indication of a gas leak.


    It’s important to keep in mind that natural gas is flammable and that even a spark can serve as an ignition source. For your safety and for the safety of those around you, be aware that any of the following signs may indicate the presence of a gas leak:

    SIGHT - Bubbles rising through standing water or in toilet bowls
    SOUND - A hissing, whistling, or roaring sound at the sewer cleanout, sewer vents, or inside the structure served by the sewer line
    SMELL - The distinctive odor of natural gas at the sewer cleanout, sewer vents, or inside the structure served by the sewer line

    Have another question or an emergency?

    For any sewer related questions, emergencies or after hours please call our dispatch line at (562) 570-2390