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Sewer Laterals

Sewer or building laterals, which are private connections to the sewerage system and therefore not under the control of the public authorities, make up about half the total length of all the pipes connected to the system. There is a substantial amount of infiltration into these building laterals as well. Typically, the pipes are very narrow in diameter with frequent changes in diameter, multiple bends and multiple fittings for cleanout, or minimal or no cleanout or effective access. They may be laid with a minimum slope and put in by local contractors with little or no inspection and supervision. There can be numerous defective connections including to the main sewer line. Pipes that are not aligned properly occur as well as pipe joints that are cracked or displaced. The laterals may pass close to trees which allows for disruption by roots and infiltration of the line, private property, a roadway or driveway, or bodies of water. There is considerable failure because of unsuitable materials or installation. Since these lines are privately owned, this creates a serious problem of private property issues. There are certainly serious financial issues for the property owners when laterals need to be replaced.

Best Practices in Inspection, Maintenance, and Repair of Sewer Laterals

  • • Locate cleanouts for laterals on each property by visual inspection.
  • • Locate laterals on each property by smoke testing, use of dye in toilets, use of closed- circuit TV, ground penetrating radar, radar tomography, etc.
  • • Determine if there is leakage by smoke testing, use of dye in toilets, and visual inspections of uncapped cleanouts.
  • • Redirect downspouts from structures away from the sewer lateral line while providing an absorption zone for the water through a garden.
  • • Redirect footing drains from the laterals.
  • • When absolutely necessary, permanently repair the laterals by using a backhoe to excavate the area and install new larger piping to the mainline. This is usually best when the laterals are in very shallow trenches.
  • • If the problem is within 2 feet of the mainline, robotic repair can be utilized which also can remove roots from the system.
  • • Re-grout the lateral chemically from the mainline or through cleanouts.
  • • Use one of the various types of cured-in-place linings for the laterals. Typically, a repair of 100-200 feet from the cleanout is then possible.
  • • Consider adding a small insurance premium to the monthly cost of sewage disposal to provide for lateral repair in the event it is malfunctioning.
  • • Understand the private property issues particular to a given community since a substantial amount of sewer lines and laterals are beneath private property. Typically, the homeowner should be responsible for the entire lateral to the mainline in the street, but this is not always necessarily so.
  • • Provide a special fund for homeowners to be able to borrow the necessary money at very low interest rates to correct the problems of laterals on their property. This could be very costly and could drive the homeowner into bankruptcy or out of the property and still not fix the problem of the lateral.
  • • Do not allow businesses to put fats, oils, and grease into drains since this is a major contributor to sewer line blockage.
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