Pollution Prevention

El Toro Water District takes pride in providing customers of the District with a wastewater collection system that operates smoothly. In order to do this, the District invests significant manpower and assets regularly to improve and replace facilities and to perform video inspections and maintenance of its 140 miles of below ground pipelines, 11 pumping stations and 3,500 manholes.

Highly trained inspection crews utilize sophisticated cleaning and video inspection equipment to visually assess and document the condition of the below ground pipelines and to identify evidence of grease, roots, debris and structural deterioration.

Problems such as grease, roots, debris and structural deterioration if left unabated in the public sewer system or your private sewer lateral, can ultimately result in a pipe blockage and an unwanted sewage spill.

In the unlikely event of a sewage spill from the public sewer system, the District’s staff is trained to immediately respond with appropriate emergency equipment to contain the spill and minimize any consequences to the public and the environment.

How a Sewer System Works

A typical sanitary sewer system is constructed of a network of below ground pipes connected to each building or residence that transports sewage to a wastewater treatment plant.

A property owner’s sewer pipes are called private service laterals and connect to the public sewer lateral, local mainline and regional trunk lines. Operation and maintenance of the public lateral, mainlines and regional trunk lines are the responsibility of the District.

What is a Sewage Spill?

Sewage spills occur when the wastewater being transported via underground pipes overflows through a manhole, clean out, or broken pipe. Sewage spills can cause health hazards, damage to homes and businesses, and threaten the environment, local water ways and beaches.

Common Causes

Grease builds up inside and eventually blocks sewer pipes. Grease gets into the sewer from food establishments, household drains, as well as from poorly maintained commercial grease traps and interceptors.

Structure problems caused by tree roots in the lines, broken/cracked pipes, missing or broken clean out caps, or undersized sewers can cause blockages. Grease and root intrusion are the most common causes of pipe blockages.

What to Look For

Sewage spills can be a very noticeable gushing of water from a manhole or a slow water leak that may take time to be noticed.

Look for:

• Drain backups inside the building.
• Wet ground and water leaking around manhole
lids on to your street.
• Leaking water from cleanouts or outside drains.
• Unusual odorous wet areas: sidewalks, external
walls, ground/landscape around a building.

How You Can Prevent Sewage Spills

• Never put grease down garbage disposals, drains or toilets.
• Perform periodic cleaning to eliminate grease, debris and roots in your service laterals.
• Repair any structural problems with your sewer system.


Keep people and pets away from the affected area. Untreated sewage has high levels of disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

We can assist you in determining whether the origin of the blockage or spill is in the public or private system and work with you to expeditiously correct the problem and minimize negative impacts to the public health and the environment.

If You See a Sewage Spill Occurring, Notify ETWD IMMEDIATELY. If you require further information, please call our 24-Hour Customer Service number at (949) 837-0660.

Information in this article reprinted with permission of Orange County
Sanitation District.