Sewer Lateral Replacement

Ordinance 1461 requires the inspection of sewer laterals for buildings and homes that are over 25 years old when the property is being sold, when a major remodel ($30,000 and up) is planned, and for projects involving 2 or more new drainage fixture units. The provisions of the ordinance are meant to reduce inflow and infiltration and protect the water quality of our creeks, watersheds and Humboldt Bay by putting a routine inspection and repair system in place. 

Sewer lateral inspections and necessary repairs must be completed prior to close of escrow and a sewer clean-out must be installed if one is not already in place. A Private Sewer Lateral Certificate will be provided by the City Building and Engineering Department following a successful pressure test or the repair/replacement of the lateral resulting in a successful pressure test. Property owners can post a bond or refundable deposit to allow escrow to close and get a time extension of up to 1 year to complete necessary repairs. 

All work related to sewer lateral replacement (public and private) including cutting, handling and disposal of asbestos cement pipe shall be done in compliance with the Contractor's State Licensing Law and all applicable laws and regulations.

External links:
Department of Toxic Substances Control - Managing Asbestos Hazardous Waste
Humboldt Waste Management Authority - Asbestos Disposal

Administrative Fees

Some potential costs associate with these requirements include:

  • $50 application fee for exempt properties (see below)
  • $195 application fee for non-exempt properties 
  • $199.54 encroachment permit fee for work in the public right-of-way (if cleanout at property line is installed by contractor or homeowner)
  • $2,448 fee for City crews to install cleanout at property line (this does not include sidewalk repair)
  • $931 for City crews to repair sidewalk after installation of cleanout
  • $2,148 deposit for repair of "lower lateral" (from the property line to the sewer main) whenever a cleanout is installed at the property line (refundable if repairs are not required). This deposit will be required whether City crews or a contractor installs the cleanout

These are approximate costs. For exact pricing and for more questions please contact Mara Grow, Administrative Specialist at (707)825-2128 or

City of Arcata Sewer Lateral Rehabilitation Loan Program
The City of Arcata offers low-interest sewer lateral rehabilitation loans to qualified applicants. See if you qualify for this helpful program.

Exceptions to Time of Sale Testing

You may be exempt from the requirement for sewer lateral testing...
  • If the City has already approved testing and repairs to the building's sewer lateral and clean-outs during the 25 years prior to the sale or remodel;
  • If the City determines testing is unnecessary because the sewer piping is less than 10 feet long and existing conditions prevent water infiltration and inflow;
  • If the property ownership transfer is between family members and there is no property value reassessment; and
  • If the property is a condominium where the homeowners association assumes responsibility for maintaining the building sewer and/or sewer clean-out through recorded covenants, conditions and restrictions.


During wet weather conditions, a significant amount of inflow and infiltration occurs in the city sewer system as a result of leaky sewer laterals, roof downspouts and sump pumps that drain directly into sanitary sewer laterals. Inflow and infiltration (I&I) happen when excess water from the environment (stormwater and groundwater) that does not require treatment enters the sewage treatment system. This can cause numerous problems, including reduced system capacity, higher operating costs, and sewage overflows if the treatment plants are overwhelmed by exceptionally high flow volumes. Raw sewage can overflow not just into people’s homes, but into the street and waterways draining to the bay, leading to health risks as well as property and environmental damage.

Sewer laterals are small pipes connecting a building’s plumbing to the public sewer main. The laterals corrode over time, roots penetrate the pipes and other types of damage create leaks which allow inflow and infiltration into the sewer main. Most laterals are not repaired or replaced until after the property owner experiences a sewer backup. By this time, the damage is done and the sewer treatment system has already suffered the impacts.

What You Can Do to Reduce Inflow and Infiltration

  • Know where your sewer lateral is on your property and avoid planting trees or shrubs over the line, as roots seek water and can damage sewer pipes.
  • Ensure that downspouts from your gutters and drains, foundation drains, and groundwater sump pumps are not connected to the public sewer system.
  • Minimize water use when it is raining. Waiting until the rain stops to wash clothes or run the dishwater can help lessen the burden on the public sewer system.
  • Installing low-flow toilets, faucets, shower heads and other water-efficient appliances can also reduce the amount of wastewater entering the public sewer system.

Disconnect Downspouts from the Sewer

How to Safely Disconnect a Downspout from the Sewer (PDF)