Fact Sheets

Frequently Asked Questions

The Baton Rouge Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) Control and Wastewater Facilities Program is designed to address Baton Rouge's sewer infrastructure and wastewater treatment needs now and in the future. Much of this work is driven by a Consent Decree agreement between Baton Rouge City/Parish and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) is designed to answer your questions about the nature of this work and the impact it will have upon residents, businesses, and other stakeholders living and/or working in the Baton Rouge City/Parish. If you have a question that is not addressed here, please contact:

Baton Rouge City/Parish
Director, Department of Public Works
222 St. Louis Street, Room 880, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

(225) 389-3158 between 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

What is the City/Parish doing?

The Baton Rouge City/Parish is undertaking a sewer infrastructure improvement program to eliminate, or lessen the frequency of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs). In addition, this program includes wastewater treatment plant modifications/upgrades in order to meet wastewater discharge regulatory requirements. We are making a major capital investment in our sewer infrastructure and wastewater treatment plants now, so that we can create a sustainable system that serves the health and safety needs of City/Parish residents and businesses, and that protects water quality in our lakes, bayous, creeks and rivers for years to come.

Why is the City/Parish doing this?

In order to help improve the quality of life for the residents of the Baton Rouge City/Parish and to comply with the Consent Decree or other Administrative Orders that have been mandated by the Federal Government.

What is a Consent Decree?

A Consent Decree is a legal document, approved by a judge, which formalizes an agreement reached between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and potentially responsible parties (PRPs) through whom PRPs will conduct all or part of a cleanup action. The Consent Decree that the Baton Rouge City/Parish has signed, relates specifically to violations of the federal Clean Water Act within the sewer collection system and at the wastewater treatment plants. For more information, please read Consent Decree Fact Sheet.

What is a sanitary sewer?

A sanitary sewer is a series of pipes and pumps that carries waste to a treatment plant from toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines, anything that sends water down a drain.

What is an SSO?

SSO stands for Sanitary Sewer Overflow. An SSO occurs when raw sewage overflows or leaks from a sewer pipe before it has had a chance to be treated at a wastewater treatment facility. The overflow can occur at a pump station, a maintenance hole, broken pipe, or cleanout. For more information, please read “What is an SSO?”.

Why do sewers overflow?

Sewers can develop cracks and breaks, or become clogged by tree roots or grease. Sometimes an area’s population grows beyond the capacity of the sewer system. These problems can cause the sanitary sewers to overflow into waterways or even backup into basements.

Are SSOs harmful?

Direct contact with untreated sewage is definitely harmful, as human and animal wastes contain bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens. When untreated sewage flows into local waterways, it degrades the quality of the water, harms aquatic life and requires more expensive treatment to discharge an acceptable quality of effluent into local waterways.

How is the City/Parish planning to eliminate SSOs?

Through an extensive rehabilitation of the sewer system; the City/Parish will repair or replace broken pipes and other drainage structures. In addition, improvements will also be made at treatment plants to ensure that they have the capacity to receive and treat all of the wastewater that flows into them and to meet discharge limits once treated.

What should I do if I see a sewer overflow?

Immediately call Department of Public Works at (225) 389-3090. DPW staff will be deployed to investigate, clean, take samples, and work with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to report and monitor the spill.

You should also take these precautions:

  • Keep people away from the area of the overflow (typically a manhole). This is especially important for children and pets who may play near the overflow area (e.g., street, public park, or local streams, creeks, and rivers).
  • Do not go near or touch the overflow. However, if you do happen to come in contact with the sewage overflow, wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water before handling food or touching other persons or surfaces.
For information on reporting SSOs, please read “Report SSOs”.

What can I do to help prevent SSOs?

Keep grease out of the sewers. Dispose of greasy and fatty foods, such as salad dressings, cooking oil, ice cream and sauces, in your garbage can instead of your sink or garbage disposal. Direct your gutters to send water away from house foundations. Make sure there are strainers over all floor and sink drains in your home. Have the line that connects your house with the public sewer line (called a house lateral) inspected. Repairing broken laterals, which is the homeowner's responsibility, can keep stormwater from leaking into pipes and prevent sewer backups into your home. For information on preventing SSOs, please read “Help Prevent Sewage Spills”.

How will my community be affected by this work?

Sanitary sewer rehabilitation can be disruptive to the community in the areas of the project work. The sewer system first has to be inspected through a variety of techniques that are part of a Sewer System Evaluation Survey, or SSES. For example, the SSES might involve viewing the insides of the sewers using closed circuit television (CCTV). To perform CCTV inspection, a robotic camera has to be lowered into a sewer manhole. The images are sent to a monitor located inside a large CCTV truck. Often, streets or lanes have to be closed to accommodate this activity. Rehabilitation activities might require the removal of parts of old sewer lines or the installation of new sewers alongside the old lines. While there are “trenchless” technologies that minimize the amount of digging required, you can still expect openings in streets and along curbs, along with large digging and hauling equipment, and heavy truck traffic. The City/Parish is committed to minimizing the disruption as much as possible, and we will communicate with residents, businesses, commuters and other stakeholders to provide advance notice of heavy impacts. For information on construction, please read “What to Expect During Construction”.