A private sewer lateral is a pipe that connects your property to the City’s main sewer line. This connection is usually located in the street or within an easement at any of your sides or backyard. Improper maintenance may result in a sewage spill which can cause damage to private property and the environment. In Santa Barbara, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sewer lateral from the building, up to and including the connection or tap to the City sewer main. Refer to Santa Barbara Municipal Code Section 14.44.160 for more information on maintenance and responsibilities of private sewer laterals.
SLIP’s purpose is to address the high number of private sewage spills occurring in Santa Barbara by inspecting sewer laterals using video recordings conducted by a certified inspector or plumber. Inspection results are provided to the City by property owners or plumbers to determine next steps, repair, replacement, or rehabilitation of sewer lateral to a compliant state, to ensure public health and safety.
There are two ways that a SLIP Case can be initiated:
Scheduled Cases: All commercial, industrial, and common interest residential parcels within the limits of the City of Santa Barbara have a sewer lateral inspection scheduled through 2023.
Issue Related Cases: Sewer lateral inspection triggered when a defect is found in the sewer lateral through the continuous inspection of the City’s main sewer lines or by a reported private lateral sewer spill.
If you received a letter from the City regarding your sewer lateral, it’s because a defect on your sewer lateral was identified. Defects may include:
Root intrusion – Roots growing into a sewer lateral can stop or block your lateral and can cause a private or public sewer spill, a health hazard the community.
Protruding or defective sewer lateral connection: A protruding lateral causes problems for City staff to properly maintain the City’s sewer main line. Breaks or fractures in sewer laterals and their connection to the main allow infiltration during or after rain events. While the amount of water might seem small, this additional water takes up vital capacity in the sewer system. When adding up all sewer private laterals in the City, it the effect is significant.
Many private sewer laterals in Santa Barbara are over 50 years old. A defect can be a sign of additional or larger issues. The age and material of the sewer lateral can cause it to be vulnerable to root intrusion and structural failure, which may cause blockages and backups within private sewer lateral.
Yes. The contractor or plumber you hire should provide you a copy of your sewer lateral inspection. If you are unable to receive one, you can contact us to request a copy. Please note, the City stores inspection videos for a limited time.
Your property may have more than one private sewer lateral, City staff may have observed roots, a structural defect, or a defective connection on that sewer lateral.
When determining which laterals require inspection, City staff use all available resources, including inspection videos, County parcel ownership information, and the City’s Geographic Information Systems information to identify the owner of the sewer lateral. Sometimes properties in the City’s GIS appear to have multiple laterals. Your plumber is the best resource to determine how many active sewer laterals your property has or if the City GIS is incorrect. Once the sewer lateral inspection is completed and submitted to us, this information helps us update our records for the future.
A notice may be sent to the property’s physical address when notices to the property owner’s mailing address have not been successful. We encourage and kindly ask you to contact the property owners as soon as possible to notify them that a sewer lateral inspection is necessary for their property. Also, if the mailing address is not updated through the County Assessor’s office, we may send letters to the physical address. If you receive a letter or an administrative fine, please forward it to the landlord or homeowner for resolution.
Receiving a request to inspect is dependent on the condition of a lateral connection. Every lateral connection is in a different condition and may have its own respective issue(s). If you received a letter indicating that a recent CCTV inspection identified an issue with your sewer lateral, the condition of your neighbor’s lateral was most likely inspected as well. If their lateral showed a defect or issue, they will receive a letter.
For single-family homes, defects at lateral connection joints are identified on a per-instance basis after the City completes its own cleaning and sewer main inspection. The City cannot forecast when a letter will be received for residential cases. For commercial, industrial and residential common interest (3 or more dwelling units) properties, we have anticipated inspection dates planned through 2023.
We highly suggest discussing the process and partnering with them to hire one company to complete the video inspection and repairs on your common lateral.
We also recommend evaluating the possibility of separating your connection from your neighbors, unless you have a written agreement covering long term maintenance of the lateral.
Step Two: Have the plumber submit the video inspection of your sewer lateral along with an inspection report to the City for review.
Step Three: The City will issue a letter listing repairs required in order for the lateral to be issued a Certificate of Compliance based on the information provided.
The cost for a video inspection of your sewer lateral will vary based on factors such as the length of your lateral and ease of access to the pipe. If you have a cleanout already installed, this helps the plumber and reduces the amount of work needed to insert the camera.
Repairs to a sewer lateral can be costly, especially if your lateral has not been routinely maintained in the past. Trenchless repair methods that uses less invasive technologies are available to reduce the cost of repairs over the traditional trenching method. Learn about alternative methods on our SLIP Repairs webpage.
Scope of repairs are noted in the Repair Notification Letter received. Generally there are few options:
When few defects are noted, you may elect to dig and repair the damaged areas.
If several defects detected, you may consider replacement or rehabilitation of the entire sewer lateral.
If your connection to the City main needs replacing, this would be included in the work performed by your plumber.
Detailed information on additional repair options can be found on our SLIP Repairs webpage.
The City requires plumbers to attend an annual training class to ensure they meet the City’s required standards. The City’s Qualified Inspection List can be found on the City’s website. Except for replacing your sewer lateral connection to the City main, any licensed plumber may make the general repairs outlined in letter you received.
There is no fee for the inspection of your sewer lateral. City fees applicable to the sewer lateral repair depend on the repair method selected by the plumber and the location of the work.
As private sewer laterals age, the old mortar joints in the pipe tend to degrade, allowing tree roots to get into the lateral and may lead to sewage leaving your lateral. Sewer laterals are privately owned, therefore it is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure the lateral is working properly.
The City waives some inspection fees for City initiated Residential SLIP cases, please contact us to see if you qualify.
If you are having difficulty funding the repairs, please contact Bradley Rahrer, Wastewater Collection System Superintendent as soon as you have received your quotes to request an extension. Please include the reason why the work cannot be done in the specified timeframe and the needed extension duration. We will consider all extension requests based on the condition of the sewer lateral and the justification for the request.
In cases where there is a delay to unavailability of qualified plumbers, please notify Dale Escobar, SLIP Coordinator at as soon as you are aware that you will be unable to have an inspection in the specified timeframe. We will respond back to you after we review your request. This will prevent us from sending a follow-up letter or starting the fine process.
When it is clear the property owner is working on a solution to repairing the defective lateral, the City will issue an extension. If a property owner does not demonstrate any effort towards inspecting or making necessary repairs, an administrative fine may be added to the next month’s sewer service charges on the water bill.