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Oakland Sewer Lateral Ordinance

The Oakland Sewer Mess for Home Sellers

The Oakland Sewer Ordinance, which is administered by East Bay MUD, went into effect January 17, 2012. It requires that any person selling an Oakland property or conducting a remodeling project of over $100,000 enacted after January 17 must obtain a “Compliance Certificate” from EBMUD. (Presently, this is a cumbersome process best left to the plumber doing the work.)

Since most homes in Oakland have old clay sewer lines, that means the sewer line (also called the sewer lateral) must be replaced. Similar ordinances have already gone into effect in Berkeley, Alameda, Albany, El Cerrito and Piedmont. Unfortunately, in Oakland’s case, it requires the sewer be replaced to the middle of the street, which costs more than the other communities. Most sewer replacements in Oakland are running upwards of $5000.

In the case of selling your Oakland house, it usually means either replacing the sewer ... or getting the Buyer to agree to do it within six months and ponying up a $4500 deposit. That’s a big chunk of change for most Oakland Buyers to handle on top of a downpayment. So it’s likely most Sellers will be doing their sewers when they put the house on the East Bay market.

Despite that, the silver lining in all of this is we will have cleaner ground water – due to less leaching of sewer water into the soil. So remember that when you’re plunking down your $5000.

 The new Oakland sewer lateral ordinance mandates that a sewer test must be performed on all properties involved in a real estate transaction and an Oakland sewer certificate of compliance must be issued in order for the escrow to close.

If the sewer certificate is issued after an Oakland trenchless sewer replacement, it is good for 20 years. If the sewer certificate is issued on a tested line, it is good for seven years. The only exceptions are condominiums. Other triggers which make an Oakland sewer test required are renovations exceeding $100,000 and increasing the size of the water meter to a property.

The new Oakland sewer lateral ordinance has drastically changed the landscape for real estate transactions. Oakland sewer inspections are now required. Realtors and other people involved in real estate deals including home inspection professionals are receiving a large number of inquiries regarding what type of sewer test is required to obtain an Oakland sewer certificate. East Bay Mud who oversees compliance for the new Oakland sewer lateral ordinance accepts both air and water sewer tests.

  The Oakland sewer lateral ordinance is intended to protect natural resources and reduce the cost of treating ground water instead of sewage. The required sewer test is intended to determine whether or not the sewer line is allowing ground water into the system and whether or not sewage is leaking out of the system. “When a sewer test is done we need to have a proper cleanout to access the sewer system. Then we can create a seal within the pipe between the house and the sewer connection in the street. If the line holds water an Oakland sewer certificate can be issued. If the line is bad A Trenchless Sewer Lateral Replacement Is An Option





What is a private sewer lateral?

Typical Sewer ConnectionA private sewer lateral (PSL) is the pipe that connects the plumbing in a home or business to the sanitary sewer main, usually located in the street. The PSL carries sewage from a building to a public sanitary sewer. It is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the sewer lateral.

Old, cracked sewer laterals allow rainwater and groundwater to infiltrate the sewer system. Excess water in the system can overwhelm wastewater treatment facilities, causing untreated or partially treated sewage to be released into the Bay. Fixing damaged PSLs helps protect the Bay



 PSL Frequently Asked Questions:

How does the 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 sewage to overflow into the Bay.

What are the problems associated with private sewer laterals (PSLs)?
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 Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Kensington, and the Richmond Annex. The cities of Alameda, Albany and Berkeley have local private sewer lateral ordinances already in effect and manage their own programs. Check with these cities for their specific PSL requirements.

What if I want a certificate, but I haven't hit any of these triggers- can I still get one?
Yes. If your property falls within the green shaded area on the map on the home page, simply follow the steps outlined for obtaining a Compliance Certificate (steps S1-S5).

What if I don't have online access?
Please call us at 1-866-40-EBMUD or visit EBMUD's New Business Office at 375 11th Street, First Floor, Oakland, M-F (8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.).

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.)

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 realtors and other professionals to process transactions on behalf of their clients. For additional information, please see the Privacy page.

The PSL on my property has passed its 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.

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.

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

What if I own or manage a property with a large private sewer system like a campus facility or business park?
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 1-866-40-EBMUD for additional details.

I own a condominium. How does this apply to me?
Homeowners associations for multi-unit buildings have until July 2021 to comply. Contact your homeowners association for additional details.

Where can I go for more information?
For more information regarding the Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program call 1-866-40-EBMUD or email

Updated By Ray On October 11th 2012