Owners of older properties in Arcata will need to have private sewer lines inspected for leaks before they can sell under rules taking effect Friday, city officials said in a release.
The ordinance, passed by the city council last year, includes provisions to protect creek, watershed and bay water quality by putting a routine inspection and repair system in place.
The inspection of sewer laterals, pipes that connect indoor plumbing to the main sewer lines, will be required for buildings and homes that are more than 25 years old when the property is being sold or a major remodel is planned. Water enters the city sewer system during wet weather from leaky private sewer laterals and from roof downspouts and sump pumps that drain directly into sanitary sewer laterals, city officials said in the release.
The laterals corrode over time, allowing roots and rainwater to infiltrate the pipes. Most laterals are not replaced until after the property owner experiences a sewer backup.
By that time, the damage is done. Raw sewage can overflow not just into people’s homes, but into the street and waterways leading to the bay.
“When the City’s sewer main network of bigger pipes can’t handle the volume of wastewater, the system can overflow or upset,” city Environmental Services Director Mark André said in the release. “That can be a public health threat because raw sewage flows to the streets and gutters, people can walk or drive through it, and it can flow into storm drain inlets that lead to creeks and ultimately to Humboldt Bay. Pumping and treating excess water that enters the sewer system via failed sewer laterals also requires energy and creates unnecessary costs to the wastewater utility.”
Sewer lateral inspections and necessary repairs need to be completed prior to close of escrow. A sewer cleanout must be installed if one is not already in place. A Private Sewer Lateral Certificate will be provided by the City Building and Engineering Department after repair or replacement of the lateral.
Property owners can post a bond or deposit to allow escrow to close and get a time extension of up to one year to complete necessary repairs.
Some property sales are exempt from the ordinance, including when property is transferred between family members and there is no reassessment of property value and when the sewer laterals have already been repaired or replaced within 25 years.
For more information about the ordinance, call the city Environmental Services Department at 822-8184, email
. More information also is available from the Building and Engineering Department at 825-2128,
Property owners can read the entire ordinance on the city website at www.CityofArcata.org by searching for ordinance 1461. Plumbing companies also are familiar with the new requirements.
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