All of this rain has sewers and ejector pumps on my mind. A lot of times heavy rains cn overwhelm sewers and ejector pumps if their improperly plumbed or if the system has cracks or breaks.

 Below is a list of recommendations should you find yourself with one of the sewer or plumbing problems.

  • An alarm going off
  • A sewer odor
  • A sewer back-up

Remember Safety First! Safety Always!
Remember when troubleshooting and making repairs, always wear appropriate personal protective gear such as safety glasses and gloves. Remember the trained technicians here at Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air are here to help, give us a call!



Sewage Ejector Pumps & Tanks

 The alarm sounds to alert you to a problem in the lift station tank and that the float has risen higher than normal.

  1.  There is no power to the lift station tank:
    • Check the circuit breaker for the pump - the alarm and pump should be on separate breakers. If the breaker for the pump is not engaged, re-set the breaker.
    • If the breaker repeatedly disengages, the pump may be jammed, have a worn base plate, or be in failure. Call Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air!
  2. The float switch for the pump is not functioning or the pump is not working:
    • The float switch activates the pump; if it is not functioning the liquid will collect in the tank to a level that will activate the alarm float switch and sound the alarm.
    • Generally, the pump can be plugged directly into a power source, by-passing the switch. However, you are now operating the pump manually and you must unplug the pump to shut it off or the pump may burn out.
    • If the pump does not turn on when by-passing the switch and there is power to pump, the pump may be jammed, have a worn base plate, or be in failure. In either case, the problem will need to be corrected.

If the alarm stops alerting, but you experience problems with your ejector pump frequently, adjustments in household water use may need to be adjusted or your pump and tank may be improperly sized.

  • If the water generated in the upper level of your home gravity flows out of the house, you can continue to use the upper level facilities until the lower level sewage ejector pump or pump switch repair is completed. Sump pumps generally discharge drain-tile water, laundry water, or water softener water, but not domestic wastewater. Review the purpose of your sump pump so that you can adjust water or appliance use accordingly until a repair is complete.

Constant Chirping on Alarm
If the alarm box is sending a constant chirping sound rather than the alerting horn-like sound that occurs when you activate the TEST button, replace the 9 volt back-up battery in the alarm box. If that does not correct the problem, follow steps one and two above or give Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air a call.


If you smell gas get outdoors and contact PG&E or 911. If you know where you gas shut off is and can safely do so turn off your gas meter and contact Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air.

Sewer Gas Odor in Basement, Crawl Space, or House
That lingering sewer gas odor you get is generally from floor drains or shower drains where the trap inside the drain piping is dry, void of water, and allowing sewer gas to escape into the room. This often occurs at the start of the cold weather season when furnaces are running and removing humidity from the home. Additionally if you have bathroom that is infrequently used, the trap sometimes dries up and sewer gas can escape into the home.

  • Do not add chemicals, perfumes, or bleach to the drain lines. This can damage your pipes and cause bigger problems. Not to mention it’s bad for the environment.
  • If pouring a few gallons of water down the drain doesn't remedy the problem, you may have a venting problem that should be addressed by a plumber.
  • If the odor accompanies a sewer back-up, Call Bellows!

Sewer Gas Odor in Bathroom
A sewer gas odor in the bathroom may come from a few sources.

  • If it's a dry trap in the tub or shower drain, it can be corrected by pouring a couple gallons of water down the drain. You’ll likely need to get it checked out though as you may have a crack in the drain trap or waste and overflow.
  • If the odor is coming from around the toilet base, the wax ring used to seal the connection of the toilet to the discharge pipe may have shrunk or pulled away from the pipe. The toilet will need to be removed and the wax ring replaced.
  • If the odor does not seem to come from a drain or toilet area, you may have a plugged roof vent that will need to be cleared.

Sewer or Egg Smell Odor in Drinking Water
If your water supply has a foul odor, generally this is due to hydrogen sulfide or sulfur bacteria, not sewage.

  • In some parts of Santa Cruz, Capitola, and the Santa Cruz Mountains, homeowners get a funky egg smell in their water. This is especially common on vacation homes when water sits for extended periods of time and bacteria can develop.
  • The solution is generally a chlorine shock treatment to the water lines. This usually fixes the problem. The downside is you’ll be without water for 2 – 3 days.
  • We generally recommend that vacation homes not turn their water heaters to vacation mode for extended periods of time. The luke warm water you get in vacation mode is the perfect way to harbor bacteria and end up with smelly water. You’ll do better turning off the water heater and letting it go cold.
  • If you’re on a well contact a well service provider or water specialist.



Sewage Ejector Pump or Sump Pump Backed-up
Back-ups occurring in an ejector pump tank or sump pump area are usually caused by a failure of the pump to discharge wastewater or water out of the sump basin or pit.

  1. There is no power to the pump:
    • Check the circuit breaker for the pump-the alarm.
  2. The float switch for the pump is not functioning or the pump is not working:
    • The float switch activates the pump; if it is not functioning the liquid will collect in the tank to a level that will activate the alarm float switch and sound the alarm. If left unchecked it may overflow the tank.
  3. Nothing flowing out:
    • The discharge line or check valve may be stuck. Contact Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air to check out.

A sump pump, by contrast with a sewer ejector pump, generally discharges gray or semi-dirty, (not a real term) water. For instance laundry water, water softener water, ground water, but not domestic wastewater. Check with your local water and sewer authority to see what’s considered safe for a sump pump. In Santa Cruz and Santa Clara county laundry water and ground water at generally considered safe for gray water usage.

Backed-up on Septic Tank
If your home utilizes an onsite septic tank or sewage treatment system and you have a sewer back-up it is possible that the inlet baffle on your septic tank is plugged. You can often times inspect the baffle through a cleanout or the access lid to your septic. DO NOT EVER ENTER THE TANK! If the baffle is clear and there are no root or other obstructions in the main line running to the tank then you may need to have your septic tank pumped.

Laundry Line Backs Up
If you have a back-up when doing laundry, shut off the washing machine.

  • If the back-up only occurs when the washing machine is discharging and other water-using appliances do not cause a back-up when used, the blockage is limited to the laundry line. In this case, you can continue to use the balance of the household water-using devices until the laundry line can be cleared.
  • If your water softener discharges into the same line, shut the softener off until the line is cleared.
  • Do not add chemical line cleaners, the line needs to rootered, give Bellow Plumbing, Heating, & Air a call.

Backed up Tub, Bathroom Sink, Kitchen Sink
If your bathtub, bathroom sink, or kitchen sink is plugged, you can try to clear the line by plunging the line, or clearing the drain of any hair or debris.

  1. Use a combination of vinegar and baking soda to help clear a sluggish drain. If there is no standing water in the way:
    • Pour a half-cup of baking soda down the drain, then add a half a cup of white vinegar.
    • Place a drain cover over the drain and wait for fifteen to twenty minutes.
    • Run hot water or pour the boiling water down the drain to flush the vinegar and baking soda through. The combination of vinegar and baking soda breaks down the soap residue, scum and other acids.
  2. DO NOT use chemical drain cleaners to clear your drain lines.

Sewer or Water Back-up Whole House
If your whole home is backing up. Meaning no matter which drain you use, laundry, kitchen, toilet, or shower, you likely have a main line back up. In this event call us immediately. You need to have the line rootered and camera inspected. Main lines typically back up due to roots, offsets or breaks in the pipe, or a foreign (non-flushable) item becomes lodged in the line.

  • It’s important with any main line back up that you have the problem thoroughly diagnosed as main lines backups have the tendency to overflow toilets, tubs, and sink and cause damage.

Mobile Homes & Sewer Traps
If you have a mobile home in the Santa Cruz or Santa Clara area it’s likely you have a sewer trap. The sewer trap is located just outside your home where your sewer stub out ties into the main line. Prior to homes’ having traps at each fixture, underground sewer traps were used to keep sewer gas from coming up in the home. The problem with these traps is they are prone to failure and backups.

  • If your sewer backs up and overspills outside have your sewer trap checked out. Often times the park or park owner will pay for replacement as is falls outside the mobile home.
  • Be extremely careful if you attempt to expose the trap, usually 2 – 5’ deep, as the gas and electrical is often run in the same trench. Meaning you risk hitting a gas or electrical line if not careful. Better yet give Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air a call!



Sewage Surfacing On the Ground
If you see sewage surfacing on the ground, or one side your yard is greener than the other, you may have a

  • Broken sewer line
  • An overfull septic tank
  • Broken underground water or irrigation line

Give Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air a call. We specialized in diagnosing and fixing sewer and drain problems. We utilize trenchless and relining technologies to minimize the impact and downtime to your yard and lifestyle.



Don't let a sewer or ejector pump back up ruin your party. Bellows is the local hero when it comes to solving simply to complex, yet always icky sewer and drain problems. Give us a call and we'll get your drains up and running, our fast and professional team is standing by.

Our team is here to serve you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. If you’d like to schedule a Winter tune up for your heating or plumbing systems please consider calling Bellows at 877-477-7151. Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air services, repairs, and installs plumbing, heating, and air conditioner equipment in: Santa Cruz, Aptos, Capitola, Scotts Valley, Felton, Watsonville, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Campbell, Saratoga, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Tiburon, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur, San Anselmo, Ross, Fairfax, San Rafael, Marinwood, Terra Linda, and Novato.