Solutions For Lateral Rehab

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | October 2010 Vol. 65 No. 10

In many American cities, the sanitary sewer laterals that connect homes and commercial structures to sewer main lines have been allowed to deteriorate and become a significant source of sewer system inflow and infiltration (I&I), along with other problems.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in our three-part, exclusive series on the complicated laterals issue facing municipalities across North America. Read part one here. Part three will be published in the November issue of Underground Construction, and will examine what needs to be done to speed the process of repairing the nation’s ailing laterals.

A primary cause of the neglect of laterals is that many municipalities and water and sewer districts take the position that laterals are the responsibility of property owners and, therefore, exclude them from sewer repair and rehabilitation projects.

A summary of the factors that contributed to the nationwide lateral crisis was published in the September issue of Underground Construction -- the first of our three-part lateral series about sewer laterals. This report covers how the problem is being addressed today.

Typically, a lateral is repaired and replaced only when it becomes a necessity -- usually when the property owner no longer has the ability to flush facilities without backups and flooding.

It is reasonable to believe that the number of laterals reaching that point is increasing and thus a growing number of laterals have to be replaced or rehabilitated. In most cases, property owners are paying the bills.

“Unless the municipality has initiated a program to renew or replace private sewer laterals, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain, repair or replace the lateral pipe in the event it no longer functions,” said Gerry Muenchmeyer, P.E., Muenchmeyer Associates LLC, and technical director of NASSCO (the National Association of Sewer Service Companies). “Today, more and more plumbing companies now offer a lining or renewal technology to the homeowner that is quick and relatively inexpensive when compared to excavating and replacing not only the lateral sewer, but the associated landscaping that may be encountered.”