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Posted on: July 12, 2022

Sanitary Sewer Laterals: What Is a Sanitary Sewer Lateral and What Does It Do?

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A sanitary sewer lateral is the pipe that connects your home’s plumbing to the publicly owned sanitary sewer system. This crucial pipe carries all of the wastewater from your home to the sewer; including everything drained from your sinks, washers, showers, and toilets. Most homeowners don’t think about where their sewage goes until there is a problem with their sewer lateral. Unfortunately, when emergency strikes the repair or service required to get things cleaned up and flowing again can be quite expensive, not to mention unsettling. 

Sewer Laterals consist of two sections as Defined in the West Goshen Code, Section 66-1.A.  

  • House Sewer - That part of the main house drain or sewer extending from a point five feet  outside of the outer wall of a building, vault or area to its connection with the service lateral.
  • Service Lateral - That part of the sewer line from the sewer system to the curbline or to the  property line if there is no curbline.

Who is Responsible for the Sewer Lateral? 

West Goshen Code, Section 66-10.5: All service laterals and house sewers heretofore or hereafter  installed shall be maintained by and at the sole expense of the property owner.  

What are Common Sewer Lateral Problems? 

Sewer lateral problems usually present themselves as a blocked or clogged pipe. The following  scenarios typically work in conjunction with one another but may exist alone to cause a blockage: 

  • Fat, Oil, & Grease (FOG) – the most common offender! FOGs will ban with other solids to form  “fatbergs”. These solid masses can easily cause a blockage anywhere in the sewer system.  Please don’t pour FOGs down the drain.  
  • Tree root intrusion – roots from trees can enter through cracks, breaks, or joint offsets in the pipe. • Pipe sag or dip - caused by improper installation, shifting soil, or joint offset. Sags often collect  solids that can contribute to the formation of a blockage. 
  • “Flushable” wipes – Most wipes advertised as flushable are simply not suitable for entry into the  sanitary sewer system. They routinely cause issues in the collection system as well as the  equipment utilized to convey and treat the wastewater. 
  • A broken or collapsed pipe.

What are the Requirements for Sewer Lateral Ownership? 

There are serious environmental risks associated with misused or malfunctioning sewer laterals. Inflow  and Infiltration (I&I) are common problems associated with environmental risks. This occurs when  rainwater and/or groundwater enters the lateral either through pipe defects (Infiltration) or through illegal  pipe connections (Inflow). In fact, during wet weather, I&I can sometimes overwhelm the township’s  sewage treatment system causing overflows that force untreated sewage into yards, streets, or nearby  storm inlets. For this reason sump pump, roof drain, and foundation drain connections to the sanitary  sewer are prohibited and are in violation of West Goshen Code, Sections 66-26.C, 66-43.1.O, and 71-40.  It is also the property owner’s responsibility to maintain the sewer lateral to prevent infiltration through  pipe defects, missing or open grated vent caps, or dislodged stand pipes.  

If your sump pump, roof drain, or foundation drain is connected to the sanitary sewer a professional  contractor or plumber can disconnect and redirect the discharge. It is important, however, that you first  contact the Township Engineer with questions regarding the appropriate location to redirect your sump  water by calling 610-696-5266. 

How to Prevent Sewer Lateral Problems 

Emergency sewer repair and cleanup can be very expensive. Be careful to avoid sending FOGs, wipes,  and large inorganic solids down the drain. If you have any concerns about the condition of your sewer lateral you can contact a capable plumber or contractor for an inspection. Many contractors have the  ability to view the inside of the pipe with a specialized camera system that can provide valuable  information regarding whether service or repair is required.  

Does My Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Cover Sewer Lateral  Problems? 

Individual policies vary; however, standard homeowners insurance policies typically do NOT cover repair  or replacement of sewer laterals. Contact your insurer to see if you have exterior sewer line protection. If  not, you may be able to add an endorsement to your policy to cover expenses related to sewer lateral  issues. There are also stand-alone insurance programs on the market that offer specific coverages for  losses typically not covered by your homeowner insurance.

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