Are you polluting the Bay by neglecting your house sewer connection?
City of Berkeley
Department of Public Works
1947 Center Street, 4th Floor
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 981- 6400
FAX: (510) 981-6390
TDD: (510) 981-6903
Q. Why is the City concerned with private sewer laterals?
In Berkeley, most homes were built before 1950 and most have their original sewer lateral connection. These old pipes have outlived their design lifespan; they are typically made of clay with cement mortar joints. Over time, many have cracked or have separated joints, and often the pipes have shifted out of place. These defects allow tree root incursion and infestation. According to a study commissioned by the City, most of the private sewer laterals are extensively deteriorated and require replacement.
Deteriorated sewer laterals leak raw sewage into the ground creating a health hazard. Groundwater and rain seep into the sewer system overloading it and the wastewater treatment facility beyond their capacity. This results in backups and overflows and the subsequent discharge of untreated sewage into the Bay and the creeks.
Everyone in Berkeley wants a clean Bay and clean creeks.
The City is upgrading the Sewer Collection System.
In 1987, Berkeley initiated the annual sewer rehabilitation program to replace and repair the sewer mainlines and lower laterals in the sanitary sewer system.
Since then the City has:
Replaced or rehabilitated over a third of the City’s sewer mainlines; including 12 miles of new larger sewer "trunk lines" to add flow capacity to the sewer system.
Replaced or rehabilitated over 300,000 feet (56 Miles) of lower laterals for about 9,000 properties.
Eliminated most known overflow locations and bypass connections to the storm drain system.
Initiated a priority program to replace sewer mainlines near open creeks.
In the event of a sewer backup on your property call (510) 981-6620!
If you experience a backup, call the City’s sewer maintenance at (510) 981-6620. City crews will assess the situation and will clean and clear the City’s sewer lines, or will advise you to contact a plumber if the blocked pipe is on private property.
The rehabilitation program is continuous and ongoing; sewer projects are under construction throughout the entire year.
However, to eliminate sewer overflows caused by groundwater infiltration and rainfall inflow into the sewers, property owners must do their part and rehabilitate their upper sewer laterals as well.
Q. How do I know if my lateral needs repair or replacement?
Have you experienced backups?
Do you notice sewage odor?
Was the house built before 1950?
If you are experiencing frequent backups, or notice sewage odor, your lateral may need attention. Also, if your home was built before 1950 and the lateral has never been replaced, it is probably in poor shape. If there are trees, heavy underbrush, or shrubs nearby, root intrusion is likely to be a problem.
A plumber can determine the condition of your lateral and perform the necessary repair work. The best way to assess the condition of a lateral is by Closed Circuit Television Video (CCTV) examination. Many plumbers provide free estimates for CCTV service. Look for "Plumbing Contractors" in the Yellow Pages. You may also contact the State Contractors License Board at (800) 321-2752 for licensed contractors in your area.
Q. Who is responsible for maintaining and repairing laterals?
In Berkeley, as in most cities, the maintenance, repair and replacement of the upper lateral is the responsibility of the property owner. The City is responsible for the mainline sewer and the lower lateral.
For backline sewers, where the mainline is located in an easement behind the house, the entire lateral is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Homeowners should check their insurance and/or home warranty policies to see if they qualify for reimbursement on repairs.
Typical sewer layout with mainline sewer in the street. (Not representative of backline sewers)
Q. What exactly is a "Sewer Lateral?"
The sewer lateral is the pipe that connects the house plumbing to the City’s sanitary sewer main running in the street (in hilly areas, the sewer main may run in an easement behind the house, referred to as a "backline").
The sewer lateral is divided into two segments (see diagram above). An upper private segment that extends from the house plumbing to the curb line, and a lower public segment that extends from the curb line to the mainline sewer pipe in the street. (In some cases, these lines of distinction may vary due to topography, or if there are no curbs or sidewalks).
Q. Do I need a City permit to do lateral repair work on my property?
To perform lateral work on private property and/or in the public right-of-way you must obtain a Plumbing Permit from the Permit Service Center at (510) 981-7500.
For general information and hardcopies of this brochure please contact the Engineering Division at (510) 981-6400.
Q. What else can I do to help?
Be aware of what goes down the drain that can cause a blockage. Minimize using your kitchen garbage disposal. Place baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch all of the scraps. Place all solid waste in trashcans. Avoid pouring oils and fats down the drain. They build up in the sewers causing restrictions and overflows. Avoid flushing solids such as sanitary napkins and paper towels into toilets.
For more information on the Sanitary Sewer Program and Services please see the Public Works WebPages at:
Sanitary Sewer Program