New rules requiring some Piedmont homeowners to replace their worn-out sewer laterals will go into effect on Aug. 22.
For all residents, the rules mean they must test and replace their sewer laterals—the pipes that go from their home to the city mains in the street—when they sell the property, do more than $100,000 worth of renovations, or change the size of the water meter.
The sewer lateral replacement program is intended to prevent old, cracked sewer lines from leaking water and overwhelming sewer systems, which can lead to untreated sewage flowing into the bay.
“We are all working for a healthy San Francisco Bay,” said Angela El-Telbany, a project manager with the East Bay Municipal Utility District. “And in this case, a clean bay does start with you.”
El-Telbany spoke at an informational meeting at Piedmont City Hall Thursday night attended by about 20 residents.
El-Telbany explained that residents who need to work on their laterals, should who can use a camera to inspect the lateral for leaks or other defects.
The contractor could then replace the pipe if necessary and then use an air pressure or water test to ensure that the pipe isn’t leaking. East Bay MUD must witness the testing to issue a compliance certificate.
“It really requires the scheduling part of the inspection to be done with some thought,” said Piedmont Public Works Director Chester Nakahara.
Nakahara added that in some cases, pressure testing on some pipes is difficult or impossible without significant upgrades to the lateral.
In those cases, he recommended that property owners replace their laterals after the pipes are first videotaped.
“That’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I know it costs money, but that’s the right thing to do.”
Residents who are selling their homes have until the end of escrow to complete a lateral project. They can put off the work for six months by placing $4,500 into an escrow account that will be refunded, minus administrative fees, when the work is complete.
Exemption and compliance certificate forms will be posted to www.eastbaypsl.com. Homeowners will also be able to schedule a time for an inspection with East Bay MUD and pay the $150 compliance certificate fee on the website.
Homeowner associations for condominium complexes have until July 2021 to comply with the new rules. Residents can avoid the whole process if their sewer lateral was replaced within the previous 10 years.
EBMUD launched its program to upgrade laterals after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the California State Water Resources Control Board and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, sued it for allowing too much storm water to get into the sewage system.
Oakland, Emeryville, Kensington, El Cerrito and the Richmond Annex are being affected by the regional sewer lateral program, though Piedmont is the first city where the rules will go into effect. Albany, Berkeley and Alameda already have similar ordinances in place.
El-Telbany of East Bay MUD said the utility has the ability to levy fines, file injunctions or turn off water for homeowners who fail to complete the work, though those are last resorts.
“We certainly hope people will comply,” she said.