Education Key To Addressing Growing Lateral Issues

Part 3 In An Ongoing Series
By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | December 2010 Vol. 65 No. 12

Finding ways to effectively address problems posed by deteriorating laterals is one of the most serious challenges municipal and utility districts face in rehabilitating sanitary sewer infrastructures.

In our September issue, the first of our lateral series provided background about years of lateral neglect. The core of the problem is that many sewer providers take the position that laterals are the responsibility of the property owners they serve.

The second article in October reported on positive steps being taken and the important role trenchless procedures can play.

In this article, several industry representatives say what they believe is necessary to make significant progress in bringing laterals up to acceptable standards. Industry representatives sharing their views for this report agree on many points, differ on others.

One word – education -- defines the key to solutions to most lateral issues in the view of George Kurz, P.E., DEE, senior technical leader, Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon Inc.

Many believe the starting point for effectively addressing lateral improvements is for system operators to accept responsibility for laterals.

“For that, education is the best solution and strategy,” Kurz said. “I do not believe there is a good way to force public system operators to take responsibility for private laterals. If there is not a positive ‘buy-in’ for operators, attempting to force acceptance can generate hostility and additional barriers to communication between operators and regulatory agencies. Therefore, I believe that legislation is the least desirable course for directly addressing this. This view isn’t based on ideology--either pro- or anti-government -- but concern that the issue could become a political football and actually backfire.”

In addition, education is the key to making the industry and public aware of the need to address lateral problems, resolving responsibility for lateral replacement and rehabilitation, understanding technologies available today for rehabilitating laterals, developing new technologies that will be more effective and strategies to employ them -- all begin and continue with education, said Kurz, who has more than 35 years experience developing strategic approaches for eliminating sewer inflow and infiltration (I&I) at the state and municipal levels and now as an engineering consultant.