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Board Approves Private Sewer Ordinance in Sonoma Valley

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Board Approves Private Sewer Ordinance in Sonoma Valley

The Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District (District) approved a sewer lateral ordinance aimed at preventing sewer overflows that occur during heavy rains. The ordinance will require property owners of homes and businesses that are 30 years or older to have private sewer laterals inspected and repaired, if necessary, in order to prevent sewer overflows that contribute to pollution and result in costly fines to the District. An estimated two-thirds of the sewer laterals in Sonoma Valley are at least 30 years old and likely in need of repair.

The three-member District board, which includes Sonoma County supervisors Susan Gorin and Shirlee Zane and Sonoma Mayor Rachel Hundley, approved the ordinance unanimously at its January 10, 2017 meeting. 

A major factor in sanitary sewer overflows is what is known as “inflow and infiltration” as stormwater enters the sewer collection system during storms. Inflow from aging sewer mains and private sewer laterals contribute to these overflows.

“The District is taking steps to find a solution to this problem, and this is a good start,” said Water Agency Director Susan Gorin, who also serves as a sanitation district director in her role as county supervisor in the Third District. “We are committed to investing in the needed improvements to our sewer collection system. Repairing private sewer laterals plays a crucial role in the overall effort to prevent sewer overflows.” 

During large storms, sewer overflows often go into creeks that flow into San Pablo Bay. As a result of a series of overflows between 2010 and 2014, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board last year fined the district $732,000 and mandated the district to consider an ordinance that would result in sewer laterals being repaired or replaced.

Under the ordinance, the District will offer free inspections of private sewer laterals to property owners, and for a limited time will offer rebates of up to $1,000 for repairs. A low-interest loan program is also being considered that would allow qualified property owners to pay for repairs over a period of several years.  The program is expected to get under way during the summer of 2017. Property owners will be notified when inspections are planned for their neighborhoods.

For more information about the SVCSD, go to sonomacountywater.org/svcsd.