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The Purpose Of Private Sewer Lateral Compliance And Why You Need A Professional Plumber To Inspect Your Sewer Pipe

If your city has an ordinance requiring you to keep your private sewer lateral in good condition, it's important to know what your sewer lateral is and why cities need homeowners to maintain them. Broken or damaged private sewer laterals allow groundwater to infiltrate into the municipal sewer system, which can overload wastewater treatment plants during heavy rains. To prevent this, some cities have enacted ordinances to force homeowners to keep their sewer laterals in good condition and ensure that no rainwater enters into the sewer. Here's what homeowners need to know about private sewer lateral compliance.

What Is a Private Sewer Lateral?

Your private sewer lateral is the underground pipe that connects the plumbing in your home to the municipal sewer system. All of the wastewater in your home flows through this pipe to the municipal sewer, after which it flows to your community's wastewater treatment facility. The city maintains the municipal sewer pipe, but it's the homeowner's responsibility to maintain the private sewer lateral and ensure it's kept in good condition.

Why Is It Important to Inspect the Private Sewer Lateral?

Clay and cast iron are common materials used in the construction of private sewer laterals, and both of these materials degrade over time. Clay fractures very easily due to root intrusion or shifting soil, and cast iron eventually rusts and corrodes away. This can cause cracks or holes in the sides of your private sewer lateral. Shifting of the soil can also cause sections of pipe to become disjoint. This is called an offset, and the gap between the pipes allows wastewater to exit into the soil and allows groundwater to enter into the private sewer lateral.

Because sewer laterals degrade over time, cities are asking residents to certify that their private sewer laterals are in good condition. The reason for this is that groundwater entering into the private sewer lateral drains into the local wastewater treatment plant. During a heavy rain, a large amount of groundwater can enter into a broken sewer lateral — when many residents in the community have broken laterals, the amount of water entering into the municipal sewer system exceeds the treatment plant's capacity. This can cause the city sewers to back up into people's homes or onto the street when the treatment plant can't process the water fast enough. By ensuring that everyone in the community has a functioning private sewer lateral, it reduces the risk of sewage backup.

How Do Professional Plumbers Help With Private Sewer Lateral Compliance?

A professional plumber will come to your home and inspect your private sewer lateral using a pipe camera. He or she will check for any holes, cracks or disjoint sections that allow groundwater to drain into the municipal sewer system. If any problems are found, you'll have to fix them for full private sewer lateral compliance. This is most often accomplished by either trenchless pipe relining or pipe bursting. Your existing private sewer lateral is either relined with a membrane or a new pipe is pulled through your existing pipe to replace your connection to the municipal sewer. Once your pipe is relined or replaced, groundwater will no longer enter into your private sewer lateral and cause the treatment plant to become overloaded.

Depending on the municipality, you may need to prove private sewer lateral compliance before selling your home. You'll need to contact a professional plumber, such as from Streamline  Plumbing, to record a video of your private sewer lateral to prove to the municipal authorities that your sewer is in good condition. If problems with your sewer lateral are discovered, you'll need to reline or replace it before you are compliant.