Though we do our best to stop wastewater overflows before they happen, we can’t always prevent them. Please stay clear of the area and keep yourself safe. Until the wastewater blockage is cleared and the area cleaned up, any overflow poses a risk to the community and the environment. So, if you see a wastewater overflow, please report it.
Stay clear of wastewater overflows by obeying our warning signs. It's the most important thing you can do to stay safe.
Wastewater, or sewage, comes from our sinks, showers and toilets. It is transported through our sewerage pipes for treatment. Wastewater overflows happen when something is in the pipe to cause wastewater blockages. There are 3 common causes:
The blockage prevents the flow of wastewater, which backs up and can overflow out of a maintenance hole. This can occur anywhere there are wastewater pipes: in bushland, in waterways, in a park, on the street or in your own backyard.
It’s important to avoid areas impacted by a sewage overflow and to keep children and pets away from them. Here's why:
Sewage that overflows to the environment can also harm sensitive species of flora and fauna.
You can be sure the area is safe when we remove our signs and barricades.
We use NATA-accredited labs to sample and test waterways. We test throughout the clean-up, and we continue cleaning until the lab results prove that the site has been effectively cleaned. This can take longer in bushland or natural areas. Our clean-up efforts are regulated by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health.
Once we’ve physically cleaned the site, and contaminated surfaces are dry and exposed to sunlight, dangerous levels of microorganisms will be gone. The area will be safe to enjoy again.
The process we follow to manage wastewater overflow incidents is agreed by regulators:
1 The sewage overflow is reported to Sydney Water.
2 A technician goes to the site to verify sewage overflow and assess the impact on both community safety and the environment.
3 We install containment immediately to stop the overflow from travelling further. We also put up signs and barricades to keep the community informed and safe.
4 The choke crew clears the blockage in the pipe using a high-pressure water jetter.
5 The clean-up crew removes all sewage solids and liquids. It then cleans up the impacted area.
6 Signs and barricades won't be removed until we've completed important checks. The clean-up leader walks the site to verify the clean-up is complete. Then an environmental specialist takes water samples for laboratory assessment – their lab sample confirms the site is back to its pre-overflow condition.
7 The wastewater overflow is resolved and the site is back to normal.
You can find out more about the process in the Sydney Water Network Pollution Incident Response Management Plan (PIRMP) (422KB).