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Frequently Asked Questions



General

How does the East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program protect San Francisco Bay?
By inspecting, testing, and repairing old cracked sewer pipes, we ensure that during storms rainwater does not enter sanitary sewer lines. Too much rainwater can overwhelm the sanitary sewer system and the treatment plant, allowing untreated and partially treated wastewater to be released into the Bay.

What are the problems associated with private sewer laterals?
Most East Bay homes were built before 1950, and many have never had their original PSLs replaced. Over time, these pipelines (generally made of clay) can crack, become disjointed or displaced, and can be subjected to intrusion by tree roots, causing leaks and blockages. Rainwater and groundwater can enter the sanitary sewer system through these sewer lateral defects, potentially overloading the treatment system.

Where does this private sewer lateral program apply?
These requirements will affect properties in the EBMUD wastewater service area in Alameda, Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington, and the Richmond Annex. Berkeley manages its own private sewer lateral programs. Check with the City of Berkeley for their specific PSL program requirements.

When did the program go into effect? What if I started the purchase before the effective date?
The Regional PSL program is effective for escrows, construction or remodeling permits, or water service applications opened on or after the following dates:

Location Start Date
Alameda January 1, 2015
Albany January 1, 2015
Emeryville and Piedmont August 22, 2011
Stege Sanitary District October 17, 2011
(serving El Cerrito, Kensington, and Richmond Annex) 
Oakland January 16, 2012

Who is responsible for the PSL and how does the program work?
The property owner is responsible for the entire PSL from their home to the public sewer main (upper and lower lateral), with the exception of Alameda and Albany where the responsibility ends at the property line (i.e. upper lateral only). A property owner hires a contractor to assess the lateral condition (typically a video survey of the line), obtain permits from the city, perform required work, and set up the air or water pressure test for EBMUD's inspector. Before completing the job, the contractor or property owner uses the online scheduling tool, enters either the address or parcel number and schedules an inspection for EBMUD to witness an air or water pressure test of the PSL. When the lateral passes the test, a Compliance Certificate is issued. In a property sale transaction, it is up to the buyer and seller to negotiate responsibility for obtaining the Compliance Certificate.

Where can I go for more information?
For more information regarding the Regional PSL Program call (866) 403-2683 or email psl@ebmud.com. For additional contact information, please click here.

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Applicability

Who does the East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program apply to?
All residential, commercial, and industrial properties, including bank-owned properties and short sales.

Do these requirements apply to commercial, industrial and residential properties?
Yes. If you have a business or home in Alameda, Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington or the Richmond Annex, the Regional PSL Ordinance applies to your property.

Can I get a Compliance Certificate if I haven't hit any of the triggers?
Yes. If your property falls within the green shaded area on the map on the home page, simply follow the steps outlined for voluntarily receiving a Compliance Certificate (steps V1-V5). By repairing your sewer lateral you will protect your property and be part of helping reduce untreated and partially treated wastewater from flowing into the Bay.

Are some property title transfers not subject to the Regional PSL Ordinance?
Yes, the following transfers are not subject to the Regional PSL Ordinance requirements.

Foreclosures: Who is responsible for compliance with the Regional PSL Ordinance?
Title transfers to financial institutions resulting from a property owner losing their home to foreclosure or a similar process are not subject to Regional PSL Ordinance requirements.

When that same property is sold by the financial institution, Regional PSL Ordinance requirements must be satisfied, and either the buyer or seller, as negotiated between the parties, must obtain a Compliance Certificate. If the Compliance Certificate cannot be obtained prior to close of escrow, a Time Extension Certificate is available which allows 6 months to complete the work. To be valid, the certificate requires a $4,500 deposit be made with EBMUD. The $4,500 is refunded when compliance is achieved.

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Commercial / Industrial / Institutional Properties

What if I own or manage a property with a large private sewer system like a campus facility or business park?
If your property has more than 1,000 feet of laterals or private sewer lines, you will have until July 2016 to develop a Condition Assessment Plan describing how you will inspect all of your PSLs. By July 2021, you must complete your assessment and submit a Work Plan to the Regional PSL Program which details the condition of your sewer system and your plan to complete needed repairs or replacements. Call (866) 40-EBMUD for additional details.

What are the requirements for selling a large apartment building?
Apartment buildings owned by a single owner or entity are subject to the point of sale, building or remodeling, and water meter triggers of the Regional PSL Ordinance, similar to single family homes and commercial properties. Condominiums and complexes that have a private sewer lateral system in excess of 1,000 lineal feet are subject to separate requirements for complying with the Regional PSL Ordinance. Guidelines for properties with more than 1,000 feet of laterals are currently being developed. Guidelines for Condominiums and Other Common Interest Properties are available on the Guidelines and Resources page.



Homeowner Associations / Condominiums / Planned Unit Developments

I'm selling my condominium/townhouse. What do I need to do?
Please determine your responsibilities per your Homeowner's Association (HOA)'s Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). If your HOA is responsible for the sewer laterals and has provided EBMUD with a Letter of Responsibility, then the HOA has until July 12, 2021 to bring all of the laterals on the property into compliance. If the condominium/townhome owner is responsible for the lateral then a Compliance Certificate must be obtained: prior to title transfer, when more than $100,000 of construction or remodeling is performed, or if there is an increase or decrease in the size of the water meter.

Do these requirements apply to HOAs and condominiums?
The Homeowner's Associations (HOAs) must test and complete repairs on all of the laterals on the property by July 12, 2021 if the HOA is responsible for the property's PSLs per the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

If the individual owner is responsible for the PSL per the CC&Rs, then lateral work must be done upon property sale, construction or remodeling in excess of $100,000 or when increasing or decreasing water meter size.

If the HOA is responsible for shared lines and individual unit owners are responsible for individual laterals, the HOA must comply by July 12, 2021 and individuals must comply when any of the 3 triggers are hit.

See the Guidelines for Condominiums and Other Common Interest Developments for additional information.

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Exemption Certificates

My sewer lateral is less than 10 years old. Do I need a certificate from EBMUD?
If your property meets one of the three triggers and the lateral is less than 10 years old, you can apply for an Exemption Certificate. If the work was permitted and the City confirms that the whole lateral was replaced (or in Alameda and Albany if the upper lateral was replaced), EBMUD will grant an Exemption Certificate.

My property is located in Alameda, Albany or Stege Sanitary District and already has a Compliance Certificate. What do I need to do?
If you have an existing unexpired Compliance Certificate from Alameda, Albany or Stege Sanitary District, apply for an Exemption Certificate here. To find out if a property has an existing Alameda, Albany or Stege Compliance Certificate or to check the expiration date of an existing certificate, call EBMUD at (866) 403-2683.

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Compliance Certificates

The PSL on my property has passed the pressure test and a Compliance Certificate has been issued. How long is the Compliance Certificate good for?
If the work done was a complete replacement, the Compliance Certificate is valid for 20 years. For certificates obtained without complete replacement (repair or passed test without repair), the certificate is valid for 7 years.

What are the triggers that require a Compliance Certificate?
Buying or selling a property; doing more than $100,000 in building or remodeling work; and changing the water meter size.

How will you know if I haven't obtained a Compliance Certificate?
EBMUD reviews the listings of properties sold and works with its partner agencies to track building permits that have been issued for building or remodeling work in excess of $100,000. EBMUD's New Business Office provides compliance information about for properties subject to the water meter trigger. If a property has not obtained a Compliance Certificate, EBMUD will take enforcement action against the property owner.

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Hiring a Contractor / Doing the Work

What kind of contractor do I need for this kind of work?
Plumbing contractors generally perform sewer lateral work. Because property owners are responsible for the entire lateral from the building cleanout to the public sewer main under the street (except in Alameda and Albany where only the upper lateral must be certified), the contractor will need to meet local agency contractor licensing requirements to perform any work. Contractor licensing requirements vary by agency - check with your city's permit counter for details.

Can you provide a list of licensed contractors?
EBMUD does not provide a list. One can be found on the Stege Sanitary District website. Contractor license information can be verified at the Contractors State Licensing Board.

Should I have a plumber inspect the sewer lateral first or can I go straight to the verification test?
It is up to the property owner to decide how to proceed. Typically, a contractor will first inspect the lateral to determine the condition (usually a video survey of the line). If the lateral is in good condition, the contractor may recommend proceeding to the verification test.

The video inspection of the line is a tool to help the contractor and property owner see what work is required on the line - if any. EBMUD staff will not review the video. If the property owner believes the video inspection is not needed, and wants to proceed to the verification test, that is also acceptable.

During the installation of new gas lines by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), some private sewer laterals may have been pierced or completely bored through - known as a cross bore. Underground Service Alert does not typically mark private sewer laterals and as a result, cross bores may go undetected, and if damaged create a potentially hazardous situation. For gas line cross bore information, visit PG&E's website. A review of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) inspection should also include looking for evidence of a cross bore. If you suspect a gas line cross bore, call PG&E at (800) 743-5000. If you suspect a gas leak, warn inhabitants, evacuate the area and call 911 and PG&E at (800) 743-5000.

Do I need to obtain a city permit for the work?
Yes, if work on the private sewer lateral is required, and in Emeryville a permit is required even if the lateral will be tested as-is. All agencies in EBMUD's wastewater service area require permits to do work on the private sewer lateral.

How do I find a licensed plumbing contractor?
EBMUD does not provide a list of contractors, but one can be found on the Stege Sanitary District website. It is always a good idea to check with the Contractor’s State Licensing Board prior to hiring a contractor. Visit www.cslb.ca.gov to learn more. Also, asking the contractor for references and talking with past customers is one of the best ways to accurately gauge the quality of the plumbing contractor’s work.

What should I consider when reviewing a contractor’s estimate?
It is recommended to get at least three written estimates from contractors. Many factors, such as the length of the sewer line, access to the city main, required permits, and landscape encumbrances can affect a quote. When a contractor provides an estimate, ask if your lateral can pass a pressure test in its current condition, with just a repair, or if you need a full replacement. Ask if the estimate includes any required city permits, the cost of the EBMUD Compliance Certificate, and any possible appointment re-scheduling fees that might be incurred.

How do I decide if I need to repair or fully replace my sewer lateral?
It is up to the property owner to decide how to proceed, however, it is recommended that you be present while the contractor is performing the evaluation of your sewer lateral. The plumbing contractor will typically start with a video inspection (also known as a closed circuit television, CCTV inspection). Being available for this portion of the plumbing contactor’s inspection will allow you to see the current condition and ask questions about your sewer lateral. Depending on what the contractor observes when assessing your lateral, it may be possible that no work, a repair or full replacement is needed for your lateral to pass the EBMUD pressure test.

Could I be subject to enforcement action by the City if my lateral is defective/not maintained?
Maintaining your PSL is a requirement of your satellite’s ordinance and, if defective, could be subject to enforcement action by the satellite. For Satellite Municipal or District codes see: Why Fix a Lateral?

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Inspections

How do I schedule an inspection?
Scheduling information, including the process for requesting, canceling and rescheduling inspections, is provided to assist you.

Why does EBMUD require an air or water verification test?
The plumbing industry has determined that an air pressure test or water exfiltration test is the best way to ensure that the PSL does not allow water from the surrounding soil to infiltrate the sanitary sewer system.

What happens at the inspection?
EBMUD will witness the verification test. The test should be conducted per the provided guidelines and is usually done by a qualified contractor. See pages 3 and 4 of the guidelines for test setups. You or your contractor should be ready to conduct the test at the start of the appointment window, as explained in the guidelines and the scheduling information.

Can I set up the verification test myself or do I need to hire a plumber to do it?
EBMUD does not have specific requirements for contractors to set up the verification test, however, special equipment is often needed. For this reason, the setup of the verification test is usually performed by contractors who specialize in this type of work.

When should my contractor first schedule the verification test?
The verification test should be scheduled with EBMUD at the start of the work - a few days ahead of when the contractor thinks the verification test setup will be ready. Go to the online scheduling tool, pay the fee and schedule an appointment. Appointment windows are available Monday through Friday, 8-11 am, 11 am to 2 pm and 2 - 5 pm, excluding District holidays. The contractor should be ready at the beginning of the appointment window. Due to the large number of inspections performed by EBMUD, inspectors are not able to wait at the site if the contractor is not ready.

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Time Extension Certificate Requests

I can't get the sewer lateral replaced before the close of escrow; what options do I have?
You can apply for a Time Extension Certificate, which allows six months from the certificate issuance date to obtain a Compliance Certificate. A $4,500 deposit is required to assure that the work will be completed.

I will replace the sewer lateral the day after I purchase the house; do I still need to pay the deposit?
Yes; once the sale closes, if the lateral has not been brought into compliance and a Time Extension Certificate with a deposit has not been submitted, the property is out of compliance with the Regional PSL Ordinance and is subject to enforcement actions.

How long will it take to get my $4,500 deposit back?
Generally one to two weeks from when a Compliance Certificate has been obtained, assuming the submitted Time Extension Certificate is complete, providing contact information about the refund recipient.

What if I don't submit the $4,500 deposit or mail back the Time Extension Certificate?
If the $4,500 deposit is not submitted, the Time Extension Certificate is not valid and the property will be out of compliance. The property owner will then be subject to enforcement actions.

If the $4,500 deposit is submitted without the Time Extension Certificate, EBMUD will not have the refund recipient's name and mailing address. This will result in a delay in the refunding the deposit.

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Stege Sanitary District / El Cerrito

I have a previous Compliance Certificate from Stege Sanitary District. Is it still valid?
If the property meets one of the three triggers, a Stege Sanitary District Compliance Certificate can be used to obtain an Exemption Certificate from the East Bay PSL program. To find out if a property has an existing Stege certificate, or to check the expiration date of an existing certificate, call EBMUD at (866) 403-2683.

I live on a paving moratorium street in El Cerrito. What do I do?
The Regional PSL ordinance applies to streets covered by the El Cerrito paving moratorium. All properties are eligible to apply for a Time Extension Certificate. If that does not provide enough time, and if excavation is unavoidable, then special street restoration requirements will apply. Here is a link to the City of El Cerrito's paving moratorium information: El Cerrito Paving Moratorium

For more information, please contact Stege Sanitary District at (510) 524-4668.

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Website

What if I don't have online access?
Please call us at (866) 403-2683 or visit EBMUD's New Business Office at 375 11th Street, First Floor, Oakland, M-F (8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.).

What information about my property will be publicly available?
EBMUD's PSL website will display property address, parcel number, scheduled inspection appointment, and certificate status to help real estate agents and other professionals to process transactions on behalf of their clients. For additional information, please see the Privacy page.

When I go to make a payment, the screen goes blank. What should I do?
Please try changing your browser. If you are still having problems, come to the EBMUD office at 375 11th Street and pay with cash or by check at the New Business Office on the first floor.

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Making Payments

I'd like to make my PSL payment in person. What do I do?
Visit EBMUD's New Business Office at 375 11th St, First Floor, Oakland, M-F (8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.).

When I go to make a payment, the screen goes blank. What should I do?
Please try changing your browser. If you are still having problems, come to the EBMUD office at 375 11th Street and pay with cash or by check at the New Business Office on the first floor.

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