Palo Alto Institutes Pro-Active Plan To Locate, Correct Crossbores

April 2012, Vol. 67 No. 4

“Palo Alto always has owned the lower lateral portion of sewer lines connecting individual customers,” said Scoby. “This is not always the case with other wastewater collection systems. We define wastewater laterals as consisting of an upper portion from the property line clean-out to the privately-owned structure, and a lower city-owned portion from the property line clean-out to the main.”

Historically, Scoby continued, the city maintained the lower portion of the lateral due to ownership. Palo Alto previously conducted several assessments of the wastewater collection system, but included only the mains.

Greg Scoby

“With the adoption of the crossbore safety program,” he said, “we are now assessing the laterals in addition to the mains with an industry standard coding system. Upon completion of the crossbore safety program, we will be able to target lateral maintenance and replacement efforts based on conditional assessment created during the program. Costs of maintenance and replacement efforts will be paid by the city.”

Lack of funds often is cited by cities for failing to address the problem of lateral crossbores.

“Our inspection program is funded from the natural gas utility system,” said Scoby. “Fortunately, with commodity prices falling for natural gas, it was an opportune time to conduct the program with minimal rate impact.”

Scoby said the public has embraced the inspection program.

“From the beginning,” he explained, “our staff realized that we needed to engage our community in this effort prior to the start of the program and a public awareness effort was conducted. This awareness campaign included a press conference, inserts in bills to our customers, mailings to local drain cleaners, plumbers and equipment rental agencies and updating our website to reflect this important safety program. Our customers are very supportive and with the increased awareness of natural gas safety issues, the program has been conducted to date with very little resistance from the community.”

Comprehensive web
A quick look at the city’s website provides information about the crossbore inspection program that clearly explains what crossbores are, how they can occur, has details of the inspection program and answers the most commonly-asked questions.

Palo Alto’s approach to crossbores has generated interest in California and nationwide.