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All You Wanted to Know About Private Service Laterals (And Then Some)!

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) estimates that between 23,000 and 75,000 sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) events occur per year in the U.S. (excluding basement backups) (US EPA, 2004). Regulatory authorities are increasingly requiring wastewater utilities to eliminate such overflow events. One approach to eliminating SSOs is to reduce the entry of inflow and infiltration (I/I) into the sewer system. If removing public I/I sources alone is not enough, wastewater utilities are faced with the dilemma of either constructing large storage structures or going onto private property to remove private I/I sources. In some cities, it is estimated that as much as 60% of the flow that overfills their sanitary sewers comes from service connections (US EPA, 1996).

Recognizing the challenges that prevent many utilities from implementing sanitary sewer lateralrelated programs, the Water Environment Federation's Collection Systems Committee has developed an online virtual library website, the Private Property Virtual Library (PPVL), dedicated to private property-related issues that are encountered by many wastewater utilities. In addition, the PPVL project team presented the workshop “Private Service Laterals: What To Do, When, Why, How, and With What?” at WEFTEC.10®. The workshop addressed the following topics:

The importance of defining ownership and maintenance/repair responsibilities.

How to prevent sewer backflows (surcharging) and backups into buildings and what to do when they occur.

Examples of successful lateral repair and replacement mechanisms.

An overview of the current regulatory climate regarding backups/backflows and sanitary sewer overflows that occur on private property.

Given that the vast amount of information presented at the workshop is summarized in the WEF workshop handbook and related materials have been uploaded to the PPVL website at, this paper presents information related to a case study that was discussed during the workshop on preventing basement back-ups related to flooding events. Additionally, information on navigating the PPVL is provided.

Keywords: SSOs; Sewer laterals; funding; legal authorities; private property; private systems; public education; source control

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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