Sewer lateral and general trenchless pipe replacement questions, answers, hints and advice.

A sewer lateral is the portion of the sanitary sewer line which connects a house's or business plumbing to the city or counties sewer system. Typically, most but not all, of the sewer lateral is on the private property, while other portions of the sewer system, the sewer main, is usually all in the public right away.

New changes imposed by the federal government and the high cost of repairing the sections of pipe underneath roadways has caused many municipalities to give ownership of the section of lateral between the main and the right away to become the owners responsibility, even though the county may have installed the pipe or altered the pipe in years past.

The cost of a sewer lateral repair or replacement can vary greatly depending on the depth, overhead traffic on the road, cost of permitting and lane closures.

Improperly installed laterals during the recent construction boom and aging sewer laterals which are in poor condition present several problems:

  1. Faulty sewer lines can leak raw sewage into the ground and adjacent water ways which may be a public health issue.
  2. storm water can invade the poorly sealed sewer lines which overloads the waste treatment plant. The over capacity plants then dump the untreated sewage into our local Chattahoochee or other waterways.
  3. Heavy fines by the EPA and the health department for sewer overflows and pollution.

Many homes in our service area were built before 1980, and often have never replaced their original sewer laterals. Over time these pipelines, generally made of clay, concrete, asbestos cement, or cast iron crack, become disjointed or displaced, and have root intrusion which cause leakage and backups.

Many of these laterals lack the proper cleanout access and spacing for clearing of blockages. Sewer backups are inconvenient and can present health problems. No sewer service should shut down most businesses or make most dwellings uninhabitable.

Most residential sewer issues seem to come in during peek hours of use, such as preparing for work or going to bed. Many sewer problems are first noticed when a paper towel or solid object is flushed down the toilet and becomes stuck on a tree root or broken section of pipe.

In most cities and counties in Georgia, the maintenance of the sewer lateral, up to and including the connection to the main is the responsibility of the private home owner.

The municipality is responsible for maintaining the sewer main. In some cities and counties you are only responsible to the curb. Making a quick call to your local water/sewer service department will give you a quick answer to that question.

If you have a cleanout near the curb or perhaps a 4 or larger cleanout near the house/building, the municipality is far more likely to service your sewer line.

Ten years ago the municipality commonly serviced sewer clogs. Now, if they do attempt to clear your line, you may be required to sign a waiver for the municipality to proceed, since water damage and backflow are common events with a sewer backup.

You may voluntarily choose to repair or replace the sewer lateral at any time you feel it is necessary. This time may be when you have had:

  • Frequent backups
  • Video inspection visually shows a problem
  • Potential home buyer requests you update the system
  • Collapsed sewer line
  • Service outages

Installation of a sewer requires a plumbing license and installing a new lateral between the street and the main requires special licensing.

As a note, if you knowingly sell a house that has sewer problems and do not disclose the issue to the buyer, you may be liable for water damage and repair of the line. The municipality keeps a record of all sewer backups that are called into dispatch.

Yes. The point of the video is to show the contractor and property owner that the sewer lateral is code compliant (proper slope and proper fitting from the house to the main), and to identify any problems that can be repaired or determine if replacement is needed.

If the sewer lateral needs repair or replacement the video provides information needed such as the sewer depth, location, slope, relation to other utilities and also the methods available for replacement of the line.

Yes. Trenchless sewer replacement is best when it can be used. It has 50% fewer mechanical connections, is a seamless polyethylene pipe with a 100 year service life, and is pliable for earth movement, settling, tree root growth, and can be connected without ordinary transition coupling.

The process is the least invasive for both landscapes, retaining walls, other structures above the sewer line and any other obstacles that an open trench scenario would represent. Trenchless replacement also allows for upsizing of lines if additional capacity is needed.

Some scenarios that might prevent trenchless sewer repair include:

  • Excessive bends in the pipe system
  • Collapsed or damaged lines
  • Sinkholes in the excavation area
  • Improper grade on the orginal sewer lateral

However, even if the original line cannot be reused other trenchless options exist such as drilling a pilot bore or using a directional drill and then using our trenchless pipe machine to pull a new line through our new hole and terminating the old service.

Open cutting a trench could be less expensive than trenchless sewer repair - it just depends on what is in the way.

If there are no obstacles between point A and point B and the distance is short, trenchless sewer repair is likely cheaper.

If you stand to loose a tree, driveway, or outbuilding, trenchless replacement quickly becomes more affordable.

Also, in several local cities, the city arborist can fine you tens of thousands of dollars for damaging the root structure of a large tree.

Each situation can be unique, and Atlantis Plumbing can help you determine the best method for your sewer repair service need.