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Wastewater Collection System

TO REPORT SEWER SPILLS CALL:  (805) 564-5413 OR (805) 963-4286

Sewer Manhole Cover
The Wastewater Collection System (Sanitary Sewer System) is designed to carry wastewater from our toilets, sinks and showers via private sewer lateral pipes to the City’s sewer mains. The City owns and maintains 254 miles of sewer mains which deliver wastewater to El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Wastewater Collection System vs. Storm Drain System
The storm drain system and the wastewater system are two different sets of pipes. The storm drains are the drains you see in the street gutters or are the pipes going into creeks or the ocean. These pipes are only for rain water. They are never used for sewage. Sewage goes into a different set of pipes called the Sanitary Sewer System (Wastewater Collection System). These pipes go to the sewage (wastewater) treatment plant where the sewage is processed. Only sewer water, not storm water, goes to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment.

In fact, if water from storms gets into the sewer pipes it causes problems such as sewage overflows. This is why it is illegal to hook-up roof or yard drains to sewer pipes. The City’s Smoke Testing Program is designed to help identify and remove these types of connections. Rain water can also enter the sewer through pipe joints and spaces, also causing sewage to overflow through manholes. The Sewer Lateral Inspection Program requires property owners to repair or replace damaged private sewer lines to prevent overflows.

Programs to Prevent Spills

Sewer Lateral Inspection Program
This program was developed to improve the maintenance and repair of private sewer laterals. Cracked, broken or clogged sewer laterals can cause sewage spills. Sewage spills endanger public health and can cause contamination of creeks and the ocean. To prevent spills cased by broken sewer laterals the City is requiring property owners to inspect their lateral. For more information, visit our SLIP page.

Replacement and Repairs
2.5 miles of the system is replaced and repaired each year at a cost of approximately $1,000,000 per year

Regular Cleaning
All City sewer lines are cleaned every five years. Trouble spots are cleaned on a more frequent basis.

Video Inspections
Closed Circuit cameras have been developed that can enter down sewer lines and record the conditions that are found in that section of sewer. This helps to identify breaks, roots and water coming into the pipes through cracks.

Smoke Testing
Smoke testing helps the City to locate cracked pipes and roof/yard drains connected into the system. Unfortunately, cracks and roof/yard drains bring large volumes of water into the sewer system during storms, flooding the pipes and causing sewage to spill out into the public streets. If you think your roof/yard drains are connected into the sewer system please contact the City for help. 

Helpful Links:

  • FOG: Fats, Oils and Grease 
  • Diagram of Wastewater System and Storm Drain System (346.1KB PDF)
  • Preventing Sewer Backups (81.5KB PDF)
  • Sewer System Management Plan (794.4KB PDF)
  • Sewer System Management Plan Appendices (40.39MB PDF) 
  • Sewer System Management Plan - Council Approval
  • Sewer System Management Plan - Council Meeting Mintues (Item 13)