What is a sewer lateral?
A sewer lateral is the pipe that carries household waste to the sewer main. The sewer lateral is owned by the homeowner. It is private property, considered part of the house.
What happens if my sewer lateral breaks?
Sometimes sewer laterals fail due to age or settling soil, causing unsanitary leaks and blockage.
- If this happens to you, sewage will usually back up into your home.
- Portions of your yard may collapse over the damaged section of the pipe, or sewage may leak into your yard.
- Illnesses in raw sewage can enter the water table, creeks, streams and soil around your home.
- Bacteria such as E.coli, dipli-cocci, strep and staph, and hepatitis virus could be released.
Most sewer lateral repairs cost at least $3,000. More complicated repairs can exceed $10,000.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover lateral repair cost, which is generally considered a home maintenance expense.
What is the city's sewer lateral repair program?
In 1999, Maryland Heights voters approved a $28 annual fee for residents of residential properties with six or fewer dwellings. This fee funds the city’s sewer lateral repair program. Before the program was created, homeowners were solely responsible for repairing sewer lateral damage.
The sewer lateral program works as an insurance program, funding 100% of the cost of repairs up to $10,000 and 50% of the cost above $10,000.
Since 2000, more than 700 residents have received repairs through the program.
Program Use and Funding
Since 2009, the costs of operating the sewer lateral program have been higher than the revenues generated by the annual fee, meaning the program has been operating at a loss. The total number of repairs per year has steadily increased, while at the same time, the average cost per repair has also gone up. These trends are expected to continue.
In order to make the sewer lateral program financially stable, the city must either increase revenues to the program or reduce service levels. A reduction in service levels means that some homeowners would have to be put on a waiting list until funds became available for their repairs to be conducted.
State law prohibits the city from using general funds to pay for these repairs. The only source of funding for the program is the annual fee collected specifically for this purpose.
Increasing revenues to the sewer lateral program will allow the city to continue meeting residents’ needs well into the long-term future.
- To accomplish this goal, the City Council has decided to ask residents for a fee increase on the April 8, 2014 ballot.
- The annual fee for the program would increase to $50 per year from the current $28 per year.
- This increase would cover the cost of the program and enable the city to continue operating it at current levels.
If you have any questions about the Sewer Lateral Repair Program, please contact the Department of Public Works at (314) 291-6550.