A Guide to the East Bay Sewer Lateral Inspection Program

In 2009, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB) ordered the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to fix old, cracked sanitary sewer pipes. It is estimated that half the water that enters City sewers during wet weather comes from deficient private sewer laterals (PSLs) and from downspouts and yard area drains that are directly connected to sanitary sewer laterals. The severity of the issue required EBMU to develop an official sewer lateral inspection program to ensure that all sewer laterals within the East Bay are up to code.

EBMUD to developed the Regional PSL Ordinance in 2011, which requires all property owners in the East Bay to obtain a certificate from EBMUD certifying that all PSLs are in good condition. This ordinance affects roughly 2.2 million residents within Alameda, Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, Kensington, El Cerrito, and Richmond Annex. The City of Berkeley is the only municipality in the East Bay that operates its own PSL program, which is no less stringent than the EBMUD program but rather has different conditions and requirements that must be adhered to. 

Many East Bay residents don’t know the rules of local PSL programs since it is a relatively new program that has several nuances. In this article, we will cover the important rules and regulations that must be adhered to and the instances in which a resident must have their PSL inspected.

When Does a Sewer Lateral Need to Be Inspected?

The EBMUD Regional PSL Ordinance is required to be followed only if you are buying or selling a property, building or remodeling in excess of $100,000, or changing the size of your water meter. Otherwise, residents may voluntarily have their PSL inspected when other work is being performed in the lateral in order to meet the regional ordinance. 

Residents are exempt from the regional ordinance only if your PSL is less than 10 years old, or was fully replaced before the program start date and can be verified by the permitting agency. There are some special exemptions as well, which include the following: no sewer lateral has ever existed on your property, your sewer lateral or septic system is not connected to the public sewer main, your sewer lateral is pressurized, and if your title transfer is not subject the regional PSL requirements.

How to Comply With the Regional PSL Ordinance

In order to receive a compliance certificate that proves a lateral is in good condition, residents must follow the guidelines that are specific to the trigger for the inspection. The requirements are generally the same with some nuanced differences related to the purpose of the trigger. For example, if you are buying or selling a property a compliance certificate must be obtained prior to transferring the title. The buyer and the seller must negotiate amongst themselves who will obtain the compliance certificate. Another compliance nuance is in order for a PSL inspection to pass in Albany and Alameda then only the upper lateral must be inspected, however in all other municipalities in the East Bay the entire lateral must be inspected. The specific requirements within each East Bay municipality make it very important for residents to understand the rules and regulations as it pertains to them based on where they live and the triggering reason behind their inspection.

Lateral Testing and How to Pass

There are two acceptable types of tests that can verify the condition of a sewer lateral, which are a hydrostatic test and a low-pressure air test. For the test to be considered valid the PSL must be connected to the sewer main or manhole, plugging or capping the PSL close to the main or manhole is considered a test set up failure. In order to pass the hydrostatic test, there must be no observable water level loss in a 5-foot standpipe after 5 minutes. In order to pass the air test pressure cannot drop more than one psi in 5 minutes with the minimum starting pressure being 3.5 psi. It is important that the contractor who is performing the tests is very familiar with the specifics of each test as the rules must be closely followed in order for the test to be considered legitimate.

How This Impacts You

Since the EBMUD PSL program is relatively new, residents are often unaware of its many rules and requirements. Failing to follow their requirements can lead residents having to pay additional fees and a lot of time lost, especially when buying or selling a home. It’s important that East Bay residents know the condition of their sewer lateral, so please contact our team to have your lateral inspected.

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