Proposed Lateral Sewer Testing

discussionThe Mt. Lebanon Commission is considering an ordinance that would require testing of residential sewer laterals before a property can be transferred. Read background on Mt. Lebanon’s system and details on what is being studied.

In Mt. Lebanon, we have two separate and distinct sewer systems. Our sanitary sewer carries wastewater from homes and businesses to the main municipal sanitary sewer system, which eventually ends up at the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) for treatment. Our storm sewer system collects runoff from rain and snowmelt using a sophisticated network of catch basins and pipes, eventually discharging into our streams and rivers.

Despite Mt. Lebanon’s hefty investment and proactive approach of upgrading and repairing its main sanitary sewer lines for the last 20 years, stormwater is still getting into the sanitary sewer lines, which contributes to unacceptable overflows of sewage into our waterways. These overflows can create negative environmental issues.

It is expected that that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through the Allegheny County Health Department, will require Mt. Lebanon—along with the 82 other communities that are part of the ALCOSAN system by consent order—to reduce the amount of stormwater that gets into the sanitary sewer lines.

One way to do this is to ensure residential lateral sewer lines are in good condition and do not allow stormwater to find its way into the sanitary system. Residential laterals carry wastewater such as sink/disposal water, shower water, dishwasher/washing machine water and waste from toilets to the municipal sanitary sewer lines. Sometimes residential laterals connect to the municipal sanitary sewer line near the street and sometimes they connect behind the home, depending on how the property is configured and where the municipal sanitary line is located. Those residential lateral lines total approximately 75 miles of pipeline.

As a result of the pending consent order from the EPA, the Mt. Lebanon Commission is considering an ordinance that would require homeowners who want to sell their homes to have their lateral sewer lines tested, and higher levels of damage repaired, before the property can be transferred. The procedure could be similar to the current process for having a home’s storm lines dye tested to make sure they do not drain into the sanitary sewer line. Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel, Monroeville, Plum, Brentwood and South Fayette are among the other communities that have similar lateral testing ordinances in place.

For the lateral testing, residents would need to fill out a certificate of compliance form and privately contract with a sewer inspector certified by the National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) to use a closed circuit TV camera to evaluate the condition of the lateral line. A video would be produced to provide evidence of the inspection and document the condition of the lateral. Any damage to the line would be graded using the NASSCO standards and those having more serious defects would be required to be repaired. The current draft of the ordinance would permit lining, point repairs or full replacement as acceptable repairs. In addition to the certificate of compliance fee, sellers would be responsible for paying for the test and repairs, unless negotiated otherwise with the buyer. A lateral found to be in compliance would not need to be tested for three years (and even then, only if the home is to be sold again.)

Here’s an example of a residential configuration with problems in both the laterals and the storm drains:

lateral defect image

Because the topic is complex and involves potential mandates from federal and state agencies as well as a cost to residents, the Commission is taking careful effort to thoroughly discuss the options and address issues that could come up along the way.

Here is the most recent draft of the ordinance. It is subject to change; we will keep this link updated.

Dan Deiseroth, Mt. Lebanon’s municipal engineer, has been the primary consultant to explain why the municipality needs to think about reducing its stormwater flow into sanitary sewers. Read his memo outlining the reasons. 

Additionally, the firm Mr. Deiseroth represents, Gateway Engineers, has completed an extensive study of Mt. Lebanon’s sanitary sewer system as required by a prior consent order that outlines measures already taken to reduce flow, as well as recommendations for the future reductions. Read the study here

Meetings where the commissioners discussed the proposed ordinances are recorded and are available online. Here is a list of meetings you may want to watch:

September 12, 2018

Public Hearing - November 13, 2018

November 26, 2018

March 12, 2018

What can you do in the meantime? If you are having any major construction planned on your property including (but not limited to) an addition, paving your driveway, replacing steps walks or patios or new landscaping and your sewer lateral runs underneath it, you should consider having the lateral evaluated. It is much better to replace it as part of a current project than to find out later.

Additional Resources