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Sewer Lateral Inspection Program


As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Santa Barbara has frozen the timeline requirements for all existing Sewer Lateral Inspection Program (SLIP) Cases. All SLIP Cases will have due dates automatically paused, and resumed on August 1, 2020.

The City recognizes the financial hardships  property owners may be facing, and the impact that COVID-19 has on local economy. SLIP staff will continue to provide support for the public in case the condition of the sewer lateral changes, or property owners wants to proceed with a SLIP Case. Contact SLIP staff at (805) 568-1086, or by email.


The City of Santa Barbara’s Sewer Lateral Inspection Program (SLIP) was established in 2007 to address the increasing number of private and public sewer spills caused by issues with the private sewer laterals.

Today, SLIP's goal is to eliminate private sewer spills in our City. 

Ownership & Maintenance Responsibilities
In the City of Santa Barbara, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sewer lateral, or sewer pipe, that connects their house or building to the public sewer main.  This pipe, the “house connection sewer” is commonly referred to as the building’s private sewer lateral.  The responsibility for maintenance also includes the connection fitting, or “wye” that attaches the lateral to the public sewer main pipe which conveys the community’s sewage.

For more information on the property owner’s responsibility for maintenance, see Santa Barbara Municipal Chapter 14.44.160 Maintenance of Private Systems and 14.46.010 Definitions Building Sewer Lateral.

Life Expectancy of a Sewer Lateral
While some sewer pipes can last up to 100 years, depending on the type of material they are made from, some wear out much sooner or become defective if the area around the sewer lateral is disturbed.  If your house was built before 1970, your sewer lateral is most likely made from clay, cast iron or “orangeburg” and may need to be repaired, rehabilitated or replaced.  The only way to know by hiring an eligible licensed plumber to inspect the condition of your sewer lateral or finding out as a result of a sewage backup.


Maintenance Issues
Like your roof, pipes deteriorate over time and will require maintenance.  Typical issues with old sewer laterals include tree roots entering at failed joints or cracks, broken or separated joints, or complete collapses.  As your pipe deteriorates, joints may begin to fail, allowing roots to enter into the barrel of the sewer lateral. If the roots are not discovered in time, this can cause a blockage, eventually leading to a sewage spill that harms the environment and could cause costly damage to your private property.  Roots are especially problematic in Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean climate and the roots thrive when they find a new, nutrient-filled water source: your old possibly cracked sewer lateral.

If you experience a sewage backup, have a toilet or household drain emptying more slowly than usual, or you find patches in your yard that are always wet, you should contact a eligible licensed plumber to have your sewer lateral inspected as soon as possible.  They can perform a video inspection of the inside of your sewer lateral to determine if it is damaged or simply clogged by grease, or debris (such as “disposable” wipes).

Inspection Triggers
If you own a property within the City of Santa Barbara and receive City sewer service, you may receive a letter from SLIP indicating that you need to inspect the sewer lateral.  Your letter should identify which condition triggered the inspection. Three reasons the City would initiate a SLIP case for your property are:

  1. Your property is zoned as a Commercial, Industrial or Common Interest Development (three or more dwelling units). These cases are called the “scheduled” SLIP cases and are required to inspect their laterals every ten years. 

  2. The City’s condition assessment program identified a defect on your sewer lateral through routine CCTV of the public sewer main.   This could be roots intruding into the public sewer main, a defective connection which could allow infiltration of groundwater or prevent the City from properly maintaining the sewer main, or a structural issue inside the sewer lateral itself.

  3. The property recently experienced a private sewer spill, resulting in a response from City staff.  A plumber might have identified and fixed the initial issue, however, we are required to ensure that the cause of the spill is eliminated.


Repair Solutions


Last Updated: Oct 21, 2020
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