The City of Santa Barbara’s Sewer Lateral Inspection Program (SLIP) was established in 2007 as a way to address the increasing number of private sewer lateral spills and public spills caused by issues with the private sewer laterals.
Today, SLIP still focuses on identifying issues with sewer laterals with the goal of eliminating 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.
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 you would know this is by either having previous blockages or hiring a plumbing contractor inspect the condition of your sewer lateral.
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 or could cause costly damage to your 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 licensed plumbing contractor 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 and the three reasons the City would initiate a SLIP case for your property would be:
Your property is zoned as a Commercial, Industrial or Common Interest Development (4 or more dwelling units). These cases are called the “scheduled” SLIP cases because in 2013, the City began sending letters to all of these types of properties to have their sewer laterals inspected every ten years. Each lateral was given a specific inspection month, sometime before 2024.
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.
The property recently experienced a private sewer spill, resulting in a response from City Wastewater 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.
After SLIP Staff reviews your lateral inspection video, you will receive a letter notifying you if any repairs are needed. If your sewer lateral needs to be repaired, rehabilitated or replaced, the next steps are:
Contact licensed plumbing contractors to get estimates. Ask your contractor about alternative repair methods, such as rehabilitation, to determine if they are options for your situation.
Obtain a permit for the work. Do not hire a contractor who says sewer repair work can be done without a permit!
Review the contractor’s proposal to make sure it explains all of the work to be done, required permits and who will obtain and pay for permits, how the site will be restored and cleaned-up, and payment terms.
The City is here to help, so please check with any one of our SLIP staff if you have questions or concerns about your specific case.
To get more information:
Attend one of our SLIP workshops (1-on-1) held at El Estero Water Resource Center on the 3rd Wed. of each month from 5:00-7:00 pm (RSVP required)
Schedule an appointment with one of our SLIP Team members during office hours Mon- Thurs & alternative Fridays 8:00 am – 3:00 pm