City offers free sewer fix in exchange for easement

As it has done with previous inflow and infiltration reduction projects, the city of Sweet Home is requesting easement agreements from private property owners where the upcoming Phase IV of the project will replace private sewer lateral lines.

For several years, the city has been replacing and repairing sewer lines in an effort to reduce inflow and infiltration, which is storm water that leaks into the sewer system through deteriorating and cracked pipes and through cross connections to the storm drain system.

The I&I, as it is called, is so severe during heavy storms that wastewater flows exceed the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant, resulting in overflows of untreated sewage into the South Santiam River. This happens several times during each rainy season.

“It is part of the whole system,” said Public Works Director Mike Adams of the leakage. “And system-wide, private laterals on private property are at least half of the problem.”

To repair or replace a private service lateral, the city’s funding source requires an easement, Adams said. The repairs and replacements are paid for by a loan from the state’s Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund, saving property owners the cost of repairing or replacing the lateral.

Under the easement agreement, property owners cannot build anything permanent over the sewer lateral, Adams said. “I don’t know if there’s a rule, but why would you?”

While pipes are out of sight and out of mind, the easement is a reminder, Adams said.

During Phase III, the city estimated lateral replacement costs at $1,500 to $2,000 a pop, he said. That includes the full cost of the private lateral, which extends all the way to the connection with the sewer main, typically on public property.

In the upcoming project, the city mainly will use pipe bursting, which slides a pipe and liner into place. The liner is expanded to burst the old pipe apart in the ground to make room for the new pipe.

Adams heard last week from a resident concerned about the easement agreement, and a letter to the editor on page 4 of today’s edition discusses the concerns.

The easement and participation in the project are optional, Adams said. However, future projects may not pay for private lateral repair or replacement.

“If they can provide information (that an existing lateral is) fairly new and doesn’t need to be done, all the better,” Adams said.

“People get concerned about losing their property,” he said. “It’s not that you can’t use it. It’s not that the city owns it.”

If something like a shed is built over the line, it may need to be moved in the future though, Adams said.

The terms of the easement agreement allow the city to enter the easement during regular business hours to repair and replace sewer service laterals, with a distance of 5 feet to either side of the line.

The agreement indicates that the only use of the easement is for work associated with the replacement and repair of the lateral.

Police Chief Bob Burford is familiar with the project and has one of the easement agreements on his own property.

It does not allow other city employees, such as police officers, access to the property, he said.

After completion of the work, the contractor must restore the property to the condition it was in before the work.