MSD Public Sewers

Sewer Backup? Call us FIRST at: (513) 352-4900

Why Do Sewer Backups from the MSD Public Sewer Occur?

Much of the older areas of Hamilton County, including the City of Cincinnati, is served by combined sewers that carry both sewage and rain water (known as stormwater) in the same pipe.

During dry weather, primarily sewage from homes and businesses across Hamilton County flows through the underground sewer pipes to one of MSD's seven major wastewater treatment plants.

But when it rains hard, the sewers can fill up with too much stormwater overwhelming the ability of the sewer to carry the flow to a treatment plant. As a result, a mixture of sewage and stormwater can overflow into local streams and rivers or back up through manhole lids or storm inlets into the environment.

The flow can also get pushed backward through private building sewers into the lower levels of home, businesses, and other buildings. This is known as a sewer backup.

Sewer backups from the public sewer can also be caused by clogs, blockages and breaks in the sewer lines during dry or wet weather. Rainwater can also enter sanitary only sewers in the newer areas of the county and cause overflows and backups. 

To help reduce sewer overflows and backups related to capacity issues in the public sewer system, MSD has embarked on one of the largest public works projects in the history of our community. Called Project Groundwork, this multi-year and multi-billion dollar initiative includes hundreds of sewer improvements and stormwater control management across Hamilton County.

Project Groundwork will help reduce localized sewer backups in some areas, but it will not eliminate sewer backups within the MSD service area.

As a result, MSD's federal Consent Decree offers a Sewer Backup (SBU) Program for MSD customers who have experienced a sewer backup caused by a capacity issue in the MSD public sewer or MSD negligence. This program includes cleaning services and reimbursement for damage claims.

In addition, the program offers a Prevention Program for property owners experiencing recurring sewer backups.


MSD's Sewer Backup (SBU) Program

If you have experienced a backup from the MSD public sewer, you may be eligible for assistance through MSD’s Sewer Backup (SBU) Program. Report any suspected sewer backups to MSD, and we will investigate in an effort to determine the cause.

Once you report a sewer backup, an MSD customer service crew will come out to conduct an initial investigation. As part of this investigation, the crew will check the nearest upstream and downstream manholes in the street to check for flow, look at the elevation of the lowest level of your property as compared to the nearest upstream manhole, and check the float level indicator on your cleanout (if you have one). With your permission, they will also look at the backup inside your home.

The crew will discuss the outcome of the initial investigation with you (if you are home). They will leave a Field Form explaining the initial evaluation with you or at your door. Following this evaluation, MSD supervisors will confirm or modify the field report. 

If your property is authorized for cleaning, MSD will contact you by phone to schedule the cleaning. You can submit a damage claim to MSD, if you have reported the sewer backup to MSD within 24 hours of discovery and have allowed MSD to investigate.  You will be reimbursed for damages if you meet the eligibility requirements for the SBU program. You may also be eligible for MSD's Prevention Program if you have experienced recurring sewer backups from the public sewer.

  • Contact the SBU Program

    Report a sewer backup

    Call (513) 352-4900 24/7
    Submit an online report

    Note: Please report your sewer backup within 24 hours of discovery to be potentially eligible for reimbursement of damages.

    Cleaning Services

    Call (513) 244-5100
    Learn more...

    Filing a SBU Claim

    Download the SBU claim form
    Learn more...
    Call (513) 244-5100 for help with your claim

    MSD Prevention Program

    Call (513) 352-4288
    Learn more...

    Videos (Customer Education)

    Learn more...

    Resources & Reports

    Learn more...

    SBU Ombudsman with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati

    Call (513) 362-2801

SBU Site Search:

MSD Home    Customer Service    City of Cincinnati    Hamilton County    Project Groundwork

Understanding Sewer Backups

How to Prevent a Sewer Backup