Management Analyst, Martin Beltran, can assist you with your sewer lateral questions. When reaching out to him, please include your property address.
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The sewer lateral consists of the pipe that begins at the building's plumbing system connection, usually a sewer cleanout located approximately two feet from the foundation, and extends to, and includes, the connection at the public (city) sewer main.
Sewer lateral cleanouts allow easy access to evaluate potential plumbing problems. They help keep your plumbing system running smoothly. A City-approved cleanout provides access for maintenance of the sewer lateral, or to clear it in the event your sewer lateral backs up. Not all current sewer laterals have city-approved cleanouts due to the age of the lateral. All replaced laterals will require a City approved cleanout to be installed which assist with future maintenance of the lateral, reducing the cost to property owners.
The average lifetime of a private sewer lateral depends on the material used to construct the pipe. Certain materials can last upwards of 50 years. The majority of the sewer lateral lines on Main Street between Pine and Spring Street have not been replaced in decades.
All sewer laterals belong to the property owner from the home or building to and including the connection at the City main. Property owners are responsible for all costs relating to their sewer lateral, including; installation, connection, maintenance, repair, reconstruction, alteration, abandonment, or removal to prevent inflow and infiltration.
Older sewer laterals can create problems for property owners because over time they deteriorate, leading to the pipe leaking, blocking or breaking. During wet weather, rain seeps into the soil and can enter the wastewater collection system through damaged sewer laterals. This is also called infiltration. This can lead to more water flowing through the public sewers and the District's Water Recycling Facility can become overwhelmed by the amount of flow.
City staff met virtually with property owners on December 10, 2020, to discuss sewer lateral repair and answer Q&A.
Please note that in this meeting recording, a property owner shares estimated sewer lateral repair costs of $28,000 to $68,000. These costs were bids from general contractors using traditional excavation. Since then, a trenchless specialty company has provided the same property owner with a bid of $14,300 per sewer lateral. There are a variety of methods that can be used to complete the project and it is up to the property owner to select their preferred method and contractor.
Property owners are responsible for the maintenance and construction of their privately owned sewer laterals. Because their sewer lateral runs under the city right way, construction is subject to City municipal code 12.12.010 for street and sidewalk excavation and encroachment. The City of St. Helena cannot recommend specific contractors, although a list of licensed contractors who complete this type of work can be found here. Property owners may seek bids from as many contractors as they see fit, once they've selected a contractor they are to file for a city encroachment permit. Prior to connection at the main, if necessary, Utilities Division personnel will witness testing of the entire line from the building cleanout to the connection to the main. Testing will be performed by the applicant's contractor.
Suggested steps for Lateral replacement with neighboring building owners:
City of St. Helena
1088 College Avenue
St. Helena, CA 94574