Protecting Our San Francisco Bay: EBMUD Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program

Original article here.

Rainwater Infiltration into Sewer Line

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is spearheading an effort to keep the San Francisco Bay clean. The EPA and the RWQCB are requiring EBMUD, six East Bay cities and one sewer district to fix old, cracked sewer pipes to ensure they don’t allow the infiltration of rainwater which can overwhelm wastewater treatment facilities, resulting in releases of partially treated sewage into the Bay and posing a threat to public health.

Leaky sewer pipes are a problem for everyone, and the plan to address this concern involves all of us. EBMUD and its partners are phasing in a Regional Private Sewer Lateral (PSL) Ordinance in some east bay communities to help keep San Francisco Bay healthy. Affected property owners will be required to obtain a certificate from EBMUD indicating that their private sewer laterals (PSLs) are without defects and have proper connections.

Regional PSL Program Start Dates

The Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program will be phased in between August and December 2011 for some East Bay communities and will require people selling their property, building or remodeling (greater than $100,000) or requesting a different size water meter to fix their leaking sewer laterals first. Property owners will be required to obtain a Compliance Certificate from EBMUD.

The Regional PSL Program start dates are listed below. The program will be effective for escrows, building/remodel permits, or water service applications opened on or after the program start date in each community.

Neighborhood Meetings

EBMUD, the EPA and municipal officials are working together to inform residents of the ordinance and assist with compliance. The agencies are reaching out to affected communities to jointly explain the requirements and to be available to answer questions. Public Meetings for the cities of Emeryville and Piedmont have already been scheduled. Attend the meeting in your community to learn more about the Regional PSL Program requirements and what you need to do to comply.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a private sewer lateral (PSL)?
A sewer lateral is the pipe that connects the plumbing in a home or business to the sewer main, usually located in the street. The PSL carries sewage from a building to a public sewer. It is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the sewer lateral.

How does the Private Sewer Lateral Program protect the San Francisco Bay?
By property owners inspecting, testing and repairing old cracked sewer pipes it heps to ensure that during storms rainwater does not enter sewer lines. Too much rainwater can overwhelm the sewer system and the treatment plant, causing releases of partially-treated sewage into the Bay.

What are the problems associated with private sewer laterals?
Many East Bay homes were built before 1950, and most have never had their original sewer laterals replaced. Over time, these pipelines, generally made of clay, can crack or become disjointed, become displaced, and/or become subjected to intrusion by rainwater and tree roots, which can cause leaks and blockages. In addition, some sewer laterals lack the right kind of “cleanout,” which provides access for clearing blockages.

Where does this private sewer lateral program apply?
These requirements will affect properties in the EBMUD wastewater service area in Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington and the Richmond Annex. The cities of Alameda, Albany and Berkeley have local private sewer lateral ordinances already in effect. Check with these cities for their specific PSL requirements.

When are property owners required to obtain a compliance certificate?
The ordinance specifies three conditions which require property owners to test and, if needed, repair or replace their private sewer laterals:

  • Prior to selling the property; or
  • When obtaining any permit for the construction or modification of the property estimated to be greater than $100,000; or
  • When increasing or decreasing EBMUD water service that requires a change in meter size.

Why does EBMUD require a verification test on the private sewer lateral?
EBMUD determined that an air pressure test or water exfiltration test is the best way to ensure that the lateral is free of leaks.

How long is the Compliance Certificate good for?
If the sewer lateral is a complete replacement, the certificate is valid for 20 years. For certificates obtained without complete replacement (repaired or tested without repair), the certificate is valid for 7 years.

For More Information

The documents below are PDF files which can be viewed and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free software.

Download documents here.

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