Josh, a "trap" in a drain is the U-shaped piece, usually found underneath a
sink or built into a toilet, where water is "trapped" to prevent odors from
travelling back up the pipes and into the house.  They also trap anything
dropped into the drain, like jewelry or the like, so that they are easily
recoverable and not lost to the sewer system.  If you have a sink that is
used regularly (once a week or more) and a toilet with water in the bowl,
your traps probably aren't dry.  I've included a link to an image here that
should hopefully clarify things a bit:

With regard to your sump, I would have to take a look at it to be
absolutely sure, but from what you described, yes, you should just be able
to unplug it.

I'm not a plumber, though.  Just a guy who has experienced lots of plumbing
issues over the years.

On Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 3:45 PM, Josh Fruhlinger <> wrote:

> I live on the 3100 block of Abell and just *today* got a flyer in my
> mailbox "reminding" me that some kind of sewer work is happening *tomorrow*
> (there had been no previous information on this subject), and urging us "to
> avoid the possibility of flows backing up into your properpty, please limit
> all liquids from going down your drain tomorrow" from 7 am to 7 pm. Among
> several problems here, it's supposed to be 12 degrees tomorrow at 7 am and
> many of us are keeping a basement sink running to prevent the pipes from
> freezing. Anyone have any advice?
> The flyer says you may "detect an odor" and that odors are "most likely to
> occur in buildings with dry or non-existent traps." I have no idea what
> "traps" are and wonder if anyone smarter than I could inform me of whether
> the houses on Abell typically have them.
> The flyer also adds that "if you have a sump pump that discharges into the
> sewer, it must be disconnected during our installation process." We have a
> pump that attaches to the basement toilet/sink that elevates water high
> enough so it can flow down into the train. Does anyone know if this
> constitutes a sump pump? If so, I have no idea how to disconnect it, though
> I could just unplug it, I guess.
> jf
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