In April of 1999, Ballwin voters approved the establishment of a $28.00 annual fee to be collected with the Real Estate property tax. The fees collected are deposited into a sewer lateral repair program fund, designated only for the repair of sewer laterals. As a result of increased costs for materials and labor, the Board of Aldermen has increased the cap for each job to $4500 from $3000.
The program was never designed to be a sewer lateral warranty program. It is designed to help residents with problems that if not repaired, would be unable to live in their home due to sewer failure. As such, damage due to normal wear and usage is not covered if the lateral is still functioning.
What is a Sewer Lateral?
A sewer lateral is the pipe that carries sewage from the house to the sewer main, which is owned and maintained by Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). It starts on the outside wall of your house and continues to the sewer main. The building sewer is located under your house and is not covered by the program.
What are the indications of a damaged sewer lateral?
The most likely indication of a damaged or failing lateral is a backup in your house, which usually occurs in the basement. At first, it may only occur when you are running a lot of water, such as when you are using an automatic clothes washer. As it gets worse, even taking a shower or flushing a toilet will cause a backup.
Sewer leaks are another problem with sewer laterals, but this problem most likely will not show up as a backup. With a sewer leak, the problem is untreated sewage leaking out into the environment through a yard or into an adjacent street, storm sewer or creek. The indications can be a bad odor, presence of black or gray colored water and in some instances, undermining of yards, sidewalks or street slabs.
Does all damage to a sewer lateral qualify under the program?
No, most older sewer laterals in the city are constructed of clay pipe. The pipe has a tendency to crack, break, separate at joints and allow roots to penetrate the pipe. These defects can exist while the sewer lateral functions normally. Roots can penetrate these defects and cause blockages. If the roots are slow-growing and can be maintained by clearing out on an annual or greater basis, the City considers this, normal maintenance of the pipe. If the roots grow at a faster rate and need to be cleared from the line more than once annually, this is considered a covered repair.
The Sewer Lateral Repair Program is intended to help homeowners who have continuous blockages and have no sewer service. It is not intended to satisfy a home sale contingency. Applications will not be approved for roots in the pipes that can be controlled with annual maintenance if everything is flowing otherwise. If an application is approved, that contract is between the city, the homeowner, and the city-approved contractor. It will not be discussed with realtors or buyers.
Many times, we receive applications for repairs when a house is being sold. The buyer has a lateral inspection completed and notes defects with no history of meeting the above criteria. These repairs are not covered under our program. If the new buyer has a problem with the lateral and meets the criteria, he or she will then be able to apply for the program.
How do I find out if I qualify?
Complete a Sewer Lateral Repair Program application form, available online or at the Ballwin Government Center. There is $150.00 application fee.
Submit the application along with documentation of the problem, proving that there is a structural problem with the sewer lateral that cannot be permanently corrected by cabling, or that backups will likely continue to occur. If the lateral cannot be opened with cabling, paid invoices from the cabling contractors indicating the problem encountered should be submitted with the application. Applications will be reviewed and the applicant will be informed of approval or disapproval of the application.
Applications received that show only roots or other minor defects must be accompanied by documentation of a history of having to clear blockage at a frequency greater than once annually. Root removal at a rate of once per year or less is considered normal maintenance and is not a basis for funding under this program.
If the application is approved, the homeowner calls the program contractor to schedule the repair work.
The contractor, homeowner, and the City will sign a contract and the contractor will obtain a plumbing permit before any work can begin. No bids are necessary.
When the repair work is completed, it will be inspected by the City and measured to determine the cost of the repair.
Payment or Reimbursement
If money is available from the program fund, the contractor will bill the City directly for the repair. If the repair exceeds the $4500 cap, the contractor will bill the homeowner for the excess.
If program funds have been exhausted for the year, the homeowner must pay the contractor directly for the repair and homeowner will be reimbursed up to $4500 when funds become available. When you make an application for a sewer lateral repair, you will be informed as to the availability of funds.
- Excavation and repair of the failed section of sewer lateral.
- Backfill and restoration of the backfill consisting of grading into a mound to allow for settlement and seeding and straw.
- Removal and hauling away construction and pavement materials that were removed to make way for the repair.
- Patching of private driveways, sidewalks, public sidewalks, curbs and street pavement.
Excluded from payment under the program:
- The cost of cabling to clear a blockage or to document a sewer lateral failure.
- The cost of having a video done of the sewer lateral in order to document a sewer lateral problem.
- The cost of removal, replacement or loss of trees or shrubs.
- Any future settlement of the back-filled sewer lateral trench.
- The cost to repair any damage to or restoration of adjoining private property or utilities as a result of any sewer lateral repair work. This type of potential damage should be discussed between the contractor and the owner prior to the start of any sewer lateral repair. Typically, the yard can be severely disturbed and will take substantial work to repair back to its former appearance.
Still have questions about the Sewer Lateral Repair Program? Contact the Inspections Department at the Government Center or by calling (636) 227-2129.