San Luis Obispo leaders say parts of the city's sewer system are outdated and the old pipes cause issues during rainy seasons.
Last week, city council members passed an ordinance (Item 13 on the Agenda) requiring some owners of old houses to get their sewer pipes inspected and in some cases replaced.
Sewer laterals are the private residential pipes that run from your home and connect to the city's sewer main below the street.
The city is offering a rebate to offset the cost.
Tim Bean bought a home in San Luis Obispo off Broad St. in May. He says his real estate agent recommended he get his sewer system inspected.
“They put a long camera down and snaked it down near 20 to 30 feet and took a video looking for any cracks or holes in the pipe or anything,” said Tim Bean, who recently bought a house in Old Town San Luis Obispo.
Bean’s house was built in 1950 and it’s the last time he says the sewer lines got an upgrade.
“They said it was structurally sound, but you can tell the material needed replacing,” said Bean. “It was sort of at the end of its life."
His neighborhood, old town, and others near Laguna Lake and Foothill Blvd. have some of the oldest pipes in the city and they tend to overflow more often.
“They may be made out of clay, something called orange-berg maybe cast iron,” said David Hix, the SLO City Utilities Wastewater Deputy Director. “Those have become old and installed correctly and they may crack or become separated or they break and that allows storm water to get in.
Hix says leaks have happened before close to homes on Broad St.
“It causes customer disruption and a variety of things, but mostly it's a health hazard,” said Hix.
With the city's rebate program, homeowners can get $2,000 towards replacing broken sewer lines which typically comes with a $10,000 price tag.
People living in areas prone to overflow can get 50% off or up to $3,000.
“Free money is free money and it’s always good to have to pay less to take care of a pretty big expense,” said Bean.
Local plumbers say they're fixing pipes in those areas daily, but they also say sewers should be considered if you're looking to remodel older homes.
“In the era of today with low-flow fixtures, when you do that on an older pipe, now we have an issue of line carry,” said Bobby Ryan, Power Plumbing Inc. President.
Replacing sewer lines isn't required by the city, but inspections are required when:
- Changing ownership of real property
- A private sewer overflows
- Applying for a building permit for the addition of a bathroom or kitchen in residential structures
- Applying for a building permit for the addition of a plumbing fixture in non-residential structures
- Increasing the size of a domestic water meter or adding a new water meter
- Changing specific use of sewer lines
- Subdividing a property
- Smoke testing or CCTV inspecting a private sewer later impacting public wastewater system
“[Plumbers] just provide the inspection and it's shared between the buyer and seller and the city gets a copy too,” said Hix. “The city gets a copy so we can better understand the issue and the condition of these laterals."
The city says it’s eventually looking to replace all old, broken sewer laterals and hopes homeowners will take advantage of available funding.
If you are having to snake or root your pipes more than once a year, the city utility department says you likely you have roots or cracks in it and should get it inspected.
An inspection is not required if the home is less than 20 years old or if the sewer lines were replaced in the last 20 years starting January 2020.
The ordinance approved by city council last week takes effect January 1, 2020.