Private sewer laterals are the pipes that lead from homes or businesses to the sewer main. Normally, the costs of replacing or repairing private sewer laterals are the responsibility of the property owner.
Leaking private sewer laterals are often one of the main sources of inflow and infiltration, commonly referred to as I&I, that increases the amount of wastewater that must treated by the District at its treatment facility. I&I is usually a result of leaky or deteriorating laterals and sewer main lines, which allow groundwater and stormwater to seep into pipes, increasing the amount of water flowing to the Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment. Additional water from I&I increases the pumping and sewage treatment cost for the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
It is the responsibility of the property owner to clean, maintain and replace their private sewer lateral. Many of the sewer lateral pipes are old, and are at risk for leaking raw sewage into the ground, causing plumbing problems in your home or business and contributing stormwater inflow to the sewer system during wet weather. Private building laterals can be compromised by tree root intrusions, grease buildup, pipe cracks, and pipe sags.
Sonoma Water has proposed a sewer lateral ordinance aimed at preventing sewer overflows that occur during heavy rains. The ordinance would apply to the Russian River and Occidental County Sanitation Districts, and the Airport/Larkfield/Wikiup, Geyserville, Penngrove, and Sea Ranch Sanitation Zones, all of which are operated by Sonoma WAter.
The ordinance would provide the Sonoma Water with the ability to inspect, and if necessary, require the repair of sewer laterals that are failing and contributing to pollution and sewer overflows. The proposed ordinance will NOT require any point-of-sale sewer lateral inspections or repairs. The proposed ordinance would not include a mandatory inspections program, but if faulty laterals are detected during routine inspections, the Sonoma Water could require repairs. An inspection could also be required if a main sewer line that is connected to the lateral is being replaced or rehabilitated. The ordinance is proposed in six sanitation zones and districts that Sonoma Water manages in Sonoma County.
The proposed ordinance is intended to reduce "inflow and infiltration," the process through which storm water enters the sewer collection system during storms. During a heavy rain, storm water from cracked or improperly connected private laterals can overwhelm the sanitary system, resulting in sewer overflows. These overflows pollute creeks, can damage private property, and result in fines to the zone or district.
For more information about sewer laterals, contact Barry Dugan, 707-547-1930, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What is a private building lateral?
A: A private sewer lateral is an underground pipe that conveys wastewater from your building to the sanitary sewer system. Typically the private sewer lateral goes from your building to the sewer main in the street.
Q: Who is responsible for the maintenance of a private sewer lateral?
A: The property owner is responsible for all maintenance, operation, cleaning, repair and reconstruction of the private sewer lateral from the building to the point of connection with the sewer main.
Q: What can be wrong with a private building lateral?
A: Over time, private sewer laterals can crack, become disjointed or displaced, and allow tree roots or debris to build up. These defects cause blockages and building backups, overflows into the environment, and rain water infiltration into the sewer system.
Q: How do I know if there is something wrong with my private sewer lateral?
A: Private sewer laterals are underground so most people won’t see a problem at the ground surface. Older private sewer laterals and laterals in the vicinity of trees or large bushes are more likely to have problems. A local plumber can inspect private sewer laterals by using a video camera to look for cracks, joint separation, root intrusion, blockages, and pipe sags.
Q: How often should I perform maintenance on my private sewer lateral?
A: Private building lateral maintenance depends on several factors including age of pipe, pipe material, and site. It is generally recommended to have older private sewer laterals inspected and cleaned every couple years. Most plumbers can inspect and clean a private sewer lateral.
Q: What are the consequences of not maintaining my private sewer lateral?
A: Private sewer laterals develop defects over time and contribute to sewer backups into the building, environmental pollution, more expensive private sewer lateral repairs, and more expensive costs for the local treatment plant. In some circumstances, the property owner can be liable for any environmental damage and the governing regulatory agency could be forced to terminate sewer service until the private sewer lateral is repaired.