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Question DetailsAsked on 2/10/2017

I have a spot in my back yard that is apparently sewer water. What do I need to do?

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2 Answers


First get a locate on sewer and water lines - sometimes the utility will do that up to the house, sometimes only to your property line - and sometimes if non-metallic pipe and no tracer wire was put in with it, they cannot locate it at all. Sometimes you have to hire an indepenent locate company, sometimes you can trace the approximate line routing between manholes or cleanouts or shutoff and where they enter/leave the house.

That should help determine if this is from a water or sewer leak - with gravity sewers (flowing to public sewers) a surface ponding would be rare. Is possible if you happen to have pressure sewer (you have a pump to pump the sewage to a higher elevation street sewer).

You can also use a steel rod (careful about hitting buried utilities) driven into the ground a foot or two, then use a stethoscope on the top end (holding very loosely so your grip does not damp out the sound) to listed to see if you hear hissing or flowing water (when no water is being used in the house) - if so then it is a water line leak.

If you have septic system, you could have it checked for an overfull septic tank or the leach field backing up - this will commonly cause leachate to rise to the surface. A leak from a sewer line should smell bad close-up - a water leak might smell a bit "gardeny" like wet dirt or topsoil but should not smell liek sewage.

If you have reason to believe it is from a sewer pipe leak, a Sewer and Drain Cleaning contractor should be able to run a camera inside the line to see if there is damage near that point - and locate the exact (within a foot or so) location so excavation will be the right place to hit it right off the bat.

Of course, if in a no-frost or shallow frost area so the pipes are likely only about 2-4 feet down, you could also try a trial excavation to see which source it is coming from and if you can expose it. Course, if a water leak while you might be able to dig down (beware of collapsing excavation walls due to the wetting) and temporarily put a sheet of rubber or such or a cut piece of hose and a hose clamp on it till a plumber can repair it.

You said in back yard - that leads me to think leakage from a neighbor's leach field, or yours - because unless you have alleys with the utilities run under them in your area, water lines almost always go out the side or front of the house to the nearest street.


If not up to any DIY activity on this, I would smell the water and take a guess based on that whether to call a Sewer and Drain Cleaner or a Plumber.

For repair - water and sewer line questions with answers and some ballpark cost info in the Home > Plumbing link in Browse Projects, at lower left. For septic system questions, same place but the Home > Septic category.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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